The Giving Trees

I often pass through the university square near my home, and notice a type of tree I find absolutely hypnotic.  Not only are its spindly leaves green and lush, providing a wonderful shade in the summer, but it has a special softness and feather-like quality which makes it stand out from the myriad of trees adorning the city’s plazas. Upon seeing it, I often think that’s exactly the kind of tree I would plant in my own garden to sit and think under. I asked a knowledgeable source and discovered it’s a Parkinsonia aculeata.

The immediate attraction and curiosity I felt for this tree drew me to write this post, dedicated to trees (and plants) as a fountain of inspiration in design.

Trees are one of the Earth’s most unconditionally giving inhabitants. They have been providing stability and preventing erosion with their roots for millennium. Their branches and trunks give us the shelter and warmth we need to survive harsh climates, and their fruits and foliage nourish humans, animals and the soil alike. The tree has always been a cultural symbol. We find them at the root of many myths and often spark the imagination of writers and artists.

Nao Tamura‘s Seasons is an ode to the ancient Japanese tradition of using leaves as serving plates and wrappers. Her modernized version of serving plates is made of silica sand, which is the raw ingredient used to make glass and ceramic.  The material is long-lasting and resistant, lightweight and flexible, easily compressed or rolled up for compact shipping. Each leaf has its own shape, and when several are placed together, they create a sculptural display of serving artware.

Vase & Leuchte by Miriam Aust acts as a planter and lamp. The series of whimsical pieces consists of three glass cylinders which combine the functions of a ceiling lamp and a vase. The material used for the lamp/vase allows for the plant’s roots to become a decorative element. The cable is used to adjust the plant as it grows, as well as to water and tend to it. A cylinder surrounds the light fixture and provides a recess for the plant.

The Nestrest is a suspended sanctuary. It combines the comfort of a sofa with the lulling peacefulness of a hammock. Constructed of DeDon Fiber, a material especially designed for the project (four centimeters wide), it guarantees a sturdy and open weave, strong enough to support the weight of people while still being airy and private. If not directly inspired by a tree, it still holds a very close relationship to them.

These are just a few examples — as well as those that struck me as the most ingenious — where the tree, its leaves, roots or its branches are used to draw creative inspiration from. I’m sure in the future we will learn and create countless things from the life that surrounds us.

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