We recently spotted an article about artist Konstantin Dimopoulos, who has been painting trees blue in urban areas like Seattle and Kenmore. He cloaks the trees with azurite, a soft, deep blue copper mineral that eventually fades and washes away over time. The effect is marvelous, as it transforms what has always been so familiar and essential to us into something quite foreign and strangely conspicuous.
Dimopoulos began his Blue Trees installations in 2010 as an effort to draw attention to shrinking forests around the globe and to the millions of trees being lost to man-made and natural deforestation each year. The basic principle behind the project is to transform the way people view, think about, and process the natural environment around them. When we see the trees for what they’re not–in this instance, blue–we’re forced to re-evaluate the experience we typically have with these entities.
Konstantin writes on his website: “In nature color is used both as a defensive mechanism, a means of protection, and as a mechanism to attract. The Blue Trees attempts to waken a similar response from viewers. It is within this context that the blue denotes sacredness, something reverential.” While I find the choice of blue to be more jarring, intrusive, and bizarre than divine, the trees certainly inspire feelings of awe. There is an assertiveness and an imposing quality to the Blue Trees that seem to almost reshape the landscape surrounding them. How do we make sense of the relationship between these trees and the city blocks or commercial spaces in which they’re placed? How did we make sense of it before the trees were colored blue?
While there have been mixed responses to the project, there’s something to be said about the way it confronts us with the question of disappearing natural elements. This brings me back to the thoughts about green walls and the rise of urban greenery mentioned in a previous post–ironic, is it not, that we seem to be invoking and attempting to revive elements of nature in our urban spaces at the same time we’re supplanting nature via rapid urban development?
Check out Dimopoulos’ work here.
There’s an interesting debate going on about the role of landscape architecture in response to a rapidly evolving tech culture. At Secter, we believe this digital landscape can be a part of a healthy, developing ecology as it allows us to continue to think and to probe the possibilities of the land. When public spaces are being replaced by desktops and computer chairs, where does landscape design fit into the scene?
There’s an illuminating article about technology and its appropriation of the landscape, and though it was written in 2006, there’s a great deal of insight about this seeming fundamental shift away from people’s experience and appreciation of nature to a state of “videophilia,” which is defined by the article as a series of sedentary activities involving electronic media. Read the full article here.
While this supposed smartphone culture may occupy a bigger space of our experience today, landscape design has always been a reflection of people’s needs. It strives to continuously engage and involve the public by creating safe, usable, and easily maintained places. Technology seems to be less of a challenge than it is an inducement to keep spaces healthy, and we see various examples of this in the form of urban greenery and the rise of green walls. Now the question is, can these “natural elements” actually replace nature? The likely answer is no.
What we do is more relevant than ever: to convey the dynamism of the land, to facilitate rich experiences of nature, and ultimately to articulate the sense and recognition of place.
Because, frankly–without it, where would we be?