2007 / Ephemeral
How to design a tree

Eugenio Adame
How to inject life into a space? The Robinia Pseudoacacia tree has several characteristics in its behaviour and morphology that influence and guide our design partee. It is an invasive tree, but at the same time protects is one environment strongly. Its trunk has thick thorns which seem like a defense mechanism agaisnt the environment….Projects emerge as habitable or functional structures that interact with reality and emerge from analytical processes of that same (reality) and from the exploration of its logical, formal and functional principles.

Nature, understood in its wide sense, is the territory where every architectural process is developed. It is fundamental to recognize nature’s basic principles, functional logics and to interact with it in a precise way. Develop methodologies that allow us measure and evaluate geographic, social or economic realities, knowing the historic methodologies that had been part of architecture, is another basic step. Different natural elements as: trees, mountains, rivers, waves or clouds, can be analyzed geometrically thanks to fractal geometry development and the digital modelling techniques. Therefore, this digital Technologies can create forms, structures, textures and realities that can develop natural-learned behaviours and, in addition, react and interact with them. In the first term we want to propose the development of a very basic project that will allow implementing a precise workflow, taking into account the different phases that a project requires. The exercise’s objective is to develop a project that interacts with a place or with specifi c elements of it and emerges from the logics existing there.

There are 4 main phases :

Geography: The knowledge of natural realities
Geometry: The design of the properties of those natural realities as a learning process
Logic: The conception of the internal logics of the function
Structure: Structural proposals and designs exclusively based in the learning processes.

Geography: Any physical, social, economical or cultural manifestation on the territory is geography. Geography does not have a scale and if it does, any phenomena can occur at a global or local domestic scale of a private space. Macro-scale and micro-scale. A mountain range and an eroded displaced stone form part of the same geographic phenomena. Like they might do, the city networks and the personal meetings. Any architectural action operates on different geographic factors, some times very distant ones.
Geometry: Any geographic phenomena can be measured. Physical or social. Mandelbrot developed tools in order to manage to measure complex natures non based on Euclidian rules. Every geographic process requires diverse techniques to measure those natures. And by doing it we learn from them. If we pretend to act over geographic entities (cities, woods, plains), or social complex entities, we should develop mechanisms to measure and represent them.
Logic: Process to recognize phenomena, conditions, relations o situations that trigger a project. In general, there is not just only logic to place a project, but different conditions and relations exist that can occur in different scales, or in the same scale but in parallel ways. However, in the process of developing a project, either as searching a solution to a problem or as developing an idea, we look for logic processes that can interact with the strength of a place and that can be able to ¨unchain¨ the structural forces of a project.
Structure: The structure is the strategy. Structures are physical, relational and spatial mechanisms than can integrate in a project within all its parts. Structure makes an architectural project stable and functional, is the essence of any project that manifests trough that its scale and its ambition. Structure can refer to physic elements, human relations, free space, territorial grid.

This is a design of a tree-based structure from formal and functional logics obtained from an analysis made to a tree in the park.

The analysis is based on:
a) Microscopic: We model the trunk and the branches based on geometric recognition using specific tools.
b) Leaves and Fruits: We create catalogues and investigate through photographing and drawing the leaves and fruits of the tree.
c) The functional logic of the tree was studied: internal energetic flows, environmental interchange, connection with the earth, ability for inhabiting other species, fruit cycles, etc. Methodology of cartography of the data should be considered as an important factor of the exercise.
Four pictures of the tree were taken at a distance of 10m from the center of the trunk. We could only use three of them since one of the views was blocked by the Parc de la Ciutadella perimeter gate. This pictures were inserted in AutoCAD at a scale of 1:1. A grid of 1cm by 1cm was then overlayed in this pictures to get the measurements of the tree.

Geometry: The elements of the tree are represented and mapped digitaly.
a) 2D and 3D representation of the tree’s macrostructure and all its elements.
b) Representation of the operational flows of the tree.
Logic : Logics of analysis and proposed are differentiated.
a) Geometrics: Representation of growing and development logics of the tree case study as well as elements of different scale involved in the process.
b) Functional: Functional Logics are represented, in both internal and external levels.The element to be built emerge from a clear definition of the logics in the design, both in geometrical and functional scale.
nterpretations of existing activities expose that the infrastructure and design elements in the park have to accommodate the expanding and contracting tendencies of programs. This ability to ’stack’ objects when not in use and distribute facilities when required is an essential trait of the park’s structure.