Spring 2008

Famous Trees: Emergence, Progression, Procession

Judith Stilgenbauer
Left to right: Plantings surfacing above the Memorial Wall, 228 National Memorial Park. Graphic by Judith Stilgenbauer Enlarge [+]

Dynamic and temporal elements distinguish open space from built form. Landscapes are not static; they develop and change. Processes in natural landscapes occur at various speeds. Some take millions of years, others minutes. Plant life reacts on the yearly pattern of seasons and the daily rhythm of night and day. Plantings evolve over the course of their lives–they grow mature, flourish, and decay. We perceive landscape through movement in space and time.

Environmental designers throughout history intended to control nature or to “enhance” its beauty by manipulating temporal qualities and slowing change. In contrast, many recent designed landscapes embrace a new aesthetic of ephemeral characteristics such as growth, spontaneity, and decay.

In the case of our “228 National Memorial Park” project in Taiwan, the metaphor of proliferating giant bamboo that will eventually surface above a memorial wall is pivotal to the design concept. Plants materialize the key idea of process in this new memorial landscape designed to achieve its meaning over time.

Comparing the situation in the 1930s with today, my “Famous Trees of California Revisited” project addresses the significance of 50 tree specimens in the natural and cultural history of California. In this publication, we intend to illustrate the development of the trees and their surroundings over the last 75 years, exploring how environmental awareness and our attitude toward design, nature, and preservation have evolved.

Judith Stilgenbauer
228 National Memorial Park; first prize, open international design competition, 2006. Project currently under construction. Graphic by Judith Stilgenbauer Enlarge [+]
Judith Stilgenbauer
The Lone Sentinel at Yosemite in the 1930s, Famous Trees of California Revisited. Photo courtesy of the Environmental Design Archives, UC Berkeley Enlarge [+]
Judith Stilgenbauer
Left: First California pepper tree at Mission San Luis Rey in 2007, Famous Trees of California Revisited. Photo by Janet C. Delaney. Right: Maunsell Van Rensselaer Collection, (2006). Photo courtesy Environmental Design Archives, UC Berkeley Enlarge [+]