Being Tree. Seminar HS20

Being Tree. Seminar HS20

“The whole history of biological evolution is in the life of a tree”

Francis Hallé, La Vie des Arbres

How can you read the intelligence of a tree? Looking at trees through the lens of their architecture enables us to see a tree’s past, and more importantly, its potential—in the words of French botanist Francis Hallé, “the tree shows its time.” The system of tree architecture allows designers to respond to the complexities of trees. While the majority of our botanical knowledge of trees rests on taxonomy and genetics, tree architecture seeks to understand trees morphologically through their patterns of growth.

A series of architectural models developed and drawn by Hallé and his contemporaries form a rule-based system that can become a tool for design. The architecture of a tree tells us how it grows, responds to environmental stresses, and exists in community. This knowledge forms a basis for designing with living things—enabling landscape architects to imagine a tree’s spatial trajectories, play with new combinations of trees in relationship, and cultivate the potentials of a human relationship to the forest.

In October, Teresa Gali-Izard and the Chair of Being Alive taught BEING TREE, a seminar week on tree architecture. A publication of the seminar drawings is forthcoming, based on drawings from en plein air lectures and a series of sketchbooks produced in the course by students while visiting the forests of Zürich and surroundings.