How to Use Trees – The 10 Best Projects that Show You How

GONÇALO DE CARVALHO; credit: Adalberto Cavalcanti Adreani

Article by Erin Tharp LAN writer of the year 2015/16 Erin Tharp, takes a look at some creative ways how to use trees in various landscape designs. Almost every successful landscape installation has one thing in common: trees. Trees are found in traditional landscapes and in ultra-modern landscapes alike. And even though the feel of the spaces may differ, the trees bring them back to nature and remind us that even the most desolate places can support life. So how do you go about becoming an expert in placing trees in your designs? Take a look at the following 10 projects that show 10 uses for trees in the landscape and prove that every space can be made better by using trees.

How to Use Trees

1. Trees as Art Visitors to the Tree Museum in Rapperswil-Jona, Switzerland, are greeted by a collection of trees — carefully placed by Swiss landscape design firm Enea — that are meant to serve as a 75,000-square-meter work of art. Enea placed several giant sandstone walls and water basins throughout the site to divide the space and to also create quiet spaces for visitors to relax and enjoy the entire collection of trees, which obviously take center stage here.

Uses for Trees

Tree Museum. Credit: Enea GmbH

2. Trees as Design Inspiration Every so often, landscape architects are faced with a project in which they don’t know where to begin their design. In the case of Baltic Sea Art Park, by Kilometrezero, in Pärnu, Estonia, the designers took one look at the existing trees and knew exactly where to start. The existing trees served as a connection to the urban fabric of the nearby city and the riverbank, but lacked any order. So, to create order, the design team reorganized the space by creating small squares among the existing trees that would be separated by a sequence of smaller paths connected to circular areas that could be used for small social gatherings. All this, while also allowing room to plant more trees. The designers used the placement of the existing trees as path makers, and ended up with a beautiful and functional design.
Uses for Trees

The Baltic Sea Art Park. Image credit: Kilometrezero

3. Trees as a Food Supply Everyone knows that apples grow on trees, and everyone knows that adding green spaces to an urban fabric can help to deal with climate change and pollution. But the Open Orchard Project funded by Open Works in London took these uses of fruit trees one step further. Here, a group of residents decided to change the social fabric of their neighborhood by planting fruit trees throughout the community. They found that fruit trees are great choices for cities, since they can be grown on dwarfing rootstocks and, once established, require little maintenance — all while providing residents with a reliable food source and a way to come together.
Uses for Trees

Open Orchard #1: Norwood Bus Garage, south London. Photo credit: @Open Orchard

4. Trees as a Fight Against Global Warming As stated above, everyone is aware of the positive changes that trees can have on the environment, including on global warming. And there is no better example of this than on Gonçalo de Carvalho, a street in Porto Alegre, Brazil, that is considered by many to be the most beautiful street in the world. More than a hundred Rosewood trees (Tipuana tipu) were supposedly planted in the 1930s by employees of a local brewery along both sides of the street. Today, they create a microclimate that helps to keep the street below both cool and in shade, proving that the addition of trees can truly change the world, even if it is only one street at a time.
Uses for Trees

GONÇALO DE CARVALHO; credit: Adalberto Cavalcanti Adreani

5. Trees as Placeholders Historical preservation is practiced by many cities in order to help residents remember important people or events, and landscapes are often what is being preserved. Sometimes, a tree may be saved due to a significant event that happened near the tree or even due to the age of the tree, but what if the trees were used as archaeological markers to preserve access holes for future artifact excavation? That’s exactly what designers did when they placed the trees along the Place d’Youville in Quebec City, Canada, and, by doing so, they created a space that is both stunning and filled with meaning, both for the people of the city and for the trees.
Uses for Trees

Place d’Youville. Photo courtesy of Claude Cormier + Associés.

6. Trees as Memories In 1922, the people of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, began a movement to plant a tree for every fallen soldier from World Wars I and II, with the hope of providing some solace to grieving families that did not have a grave to visit. Today, most of the 3,278 Poplars planted are nearing the end of their life cycle, which is the reason behind the revitalization project of Poppy Plaza, where new trees have been planted to continue the legacy of this special place and allow the memories to be carried on through the trees.
Uses for Trees

Poppy Plaza by Marc Boutin Architectural Collaborative and Stantec Consulting, Calgary, Canada

7. Trees as Lines of Sight and Focal Points Landscape Architects 49 in Bangkok are experts at creating lush and inviting residential spaces for their clients, and Baan Ladprao is no exception. Not only did the design team situate the residence among existing trees, they also used trees to lead the users’ eyes around the project by mimicking lines found in the hard materials. They carefully placed a grove of trees to create a long vista from the second-floor exercise room to the parking area, then used concrete lines placed in the ground to lead the viewer’s eyes to the focal point of the landscape – a large tree, which proves that trees can be the most important piece in a site.
Uses for Trees

Baan Ladprao private residence. Photo courtesy of Landscape Architects 49 Ltd.

8. Trees as Habitat The story of Jadav Payeng, or the Forest Man, is truly one of inspiration. In 1979, this man took it upon himself to start a reforestation project on the largest river island in India, Majuli in the Indian state of Assam. Working with the Social Forestry Division of Golachat District, he started a project to create a tree plantation on 200 hectares of land. Five years later, the project was complete, and he stuck around to maintain the place and to keep planting trees. Today, this place is a secure refuge for animals such as Bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceroses, elephants, and several varieties of birds, all of which live among several thousand trees that Payeng helped to plant. WATCH >>> Forest Man Trailer

9. Trees as Survivors When Thorbjörn Andersson started designing Hyllie Plaza in Malmö, Sweden, the designers knew they wanted to create a place that would have an identity and stand out form other plazas in the country. To do this, they decided to create a minimalist beech forest. Going in, they knew that using the ever-sensitive beech could be problematic, but they had a plan and knew that if they could accomplish it, they would create a place that showcased the survival instincts of this majestic tree. They planted 28 trees in a large planting bed accessed through12 slits cut into the granite and concrete paving surface. This bed contains just the right mixture of mulch, stones, and soil to allow the trees to thrive.

Uses for Trees

Hyllie Plaza. Photo credit: Kasper Dudzik

10. Trees to Entice The only indication that something fabulous lies behind a high perimeter wall in Bangkok would be the tops of large trees that might make a visitor stop and try to get a peek inside to see what else is in there. LOKOH=Co used the trees as a way to create interest in the T. Residence for people who might chance to walk by. Those allowed inside are not disappointed by the award-winning and complex design they find. Here, the trees add to the tropical landscape and help to provide shelter for some of the tender mosses and ferns that grow beneath them.
Uses for Trees

T.Residence. Photo courtesy of LOKOH= Co., Ltd.

Each one of these projects shows that trees are much more than simple landscape plants. Trees should not only always be given a place of honor in designed landscapes, but should also be given the opportunity to fulfill even grander elements in your designs — as these projects prove they can. Can you think of any other magnificent uses of trees?  


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Article by Erin Tharp

Published in Blog

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