Thursday, April 3, 2008

Mimic Nature

Often the use of natural forms is implemented for aesthetic or biophilic reasons, and the resultant forms tend to span the gamut from stunning to awful. We've shown examples of abstracted trees here and here - and the use of natural forms often peeks into building both as a metaphor for ecological function as well as a major feature or accent to provide stylistic cohesion.

A couple of recent projects fit the earlier category of stunning, and need little explanation other than to say, wow! The first via Inhabitat, is a project entitled Orquideorama. Located in a botanical garden in Medellin, Columbia: " Plan B Architects. The Orquideorama is an organically expanding wooden meshwork of modular “flower-tree” structures that weaves its way through the garden’s heart. A stunning study on structure and scale, the project unites the micro and macro worlds through an elegant synthesis of cellular and architectural forms.

:: image via Inhabitat

Often abstractions of nature lose the essence of what they are meant to evoke. In this case, the following photo shows how the difference and similarity of forms are strengthened by their location and juxtaposition in context. Place this same item in an urban plaza - and it would be equally stunning but perhaps not as appropriate- although judging from the plaza view picture - pretty great space.

:: images via Inhabitat

The formal quality is expanded in the further description of the "flor-├írbol", which is built to mimic growth: " the same way that a garden seeds and develops, with one popping up next to another.... Fittingly, this repetitious cellular weave resonates with another organic structure: honeycomb. ... Each “flor-├írbol” is composed of a steel reinforced trunk and six hexagonal petals that form an intricately latticed patio. The plants situated beneath each trunk are sustained via rainwater collected by the petals, and are protected from the elements by the translucent pine wood weave that is sourced from reforested lands."

Taking a similar approach is a drop-dead amazing example gleaned via Archidose from April 1st (and I hope this is no joke). These views of Arne Quinze's project in Brussels entitled Cityscape are quite amazing, as well as mimicking the natural features of vegetation, such as filtered light, dappled shade on the ground plane, as well as framed views of sky through organic branching. Maybe it's the black-and-white photos, or maybe it's the use of tree branches, sticks, and unstripped tree trunks, but again - wow!

:: images via Archidose (via the flickr pool by juliazxiao)

I'd like to say good things come in threes, but the final entry hovers near the latter, at least in my opinion. Not necessarily mimickry in a traditional sense, a squat, nastly structure on Prince Charles' house and garden at his organic farm at Highgrove. Bemoaning the loss of a 200 year old Cedar of Lebanon, the Prince commission what can only be described as a 'tomb' for the stump, while maintaining a seedling oak to grow in it's stead. Using "...oak from the farm's woodland. The bottom part is covered with oak roof tiles and has a hole for the new tree to grow through and another one where the one remaining bough of the tree remains--temporarily."

:: image via Treehugger

While abstractions of trees in form and function are great as art and as analogs to the actual thing - one must be diligent about continually abstracting versus actual planting. Inert tree sculptures lack the essence and ecology of real trees, although they maintain some of the beauty and function. And my criticism of the tomb... maybe it's PC's recent criticism of new architecture in the UK, and the overly-nostalgic backwards thinking about historical precedents. I'm sure there's nostalgia and appropriateness contextually with a 200 year old Cedar. And then there's just ugly and indulgent ways to honor it's life and death. I posit that nothing perhaps functions like a tree so much as an actual tree. And they are finnicky... slowly growing, sometimes breaking, and always, evenually - dying. Perhaps it's our need to plan better for succession, especially regarding speciman trees. Perhaps it's just letting a tree die with dignity - and allowing that to be part of the evolution of our landscapes.

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