Strange But True

Tuesday 15 Jun 2010

Trees are the objects of attention at new Swiss museum

Joni Mitchell once sang about urbanization becoming so rampant that we’d have to put all the trees in a tree museum and charge everyone a dollar just to seem them. So for about $13 USD (or 15 CHF) admission fee once can see how trees in Rapperswil-Jona, Switzerland now have the honor of being objects of art rather than just the materials that frame them.

On Monday, the Tree Museum situated on a 75,000-square- metre site near Upper Lake Zurich, opened its gates. Conceived as an oval-shaped, open-air museum, which is divided into a series of ‘rooms’, each with their own atmosphere and character, the museum exhibits individual trees from the collection of Enzo Enem. The purpose of the museum is to emphasize the exceptional presence, beauty and rarity of the exhibited trees and also so Enea’s constellations will help shape visitors’ perception of time and space, and how these are intrinsically embedded in the very essence of these ancient and venerable trees.

The idea of creating a tree museum was a natural extension to Enea’s many years of work intensely observing and studying trees combined with an increasingunderstanding of how to sense and handle them not only provided the foundation for his reputationin the field, but also instilled in him a boundless admiration and respect for trees. To share these experiences with a wider audience,Enea decided to create a museum for his trees, reserving for the care and attention usually given to artworks. Hisconcept of constructing open-air ‘spaces’ – a characteristic of all Enea gardens – allows for treesto be singled out and to become ‘individuals’, as visitors are led to walk around these rooms andto observe the trees from different angles.

Enea wants visitors to experience multitude of different elements including the ‘magnificence of the trees themselves, the microclimatethey create around them, the variety of textures, the effects of spacing and proportionsand the landscape architecture in which they are embedded.’ However, one of the most remarkable characteristics of most trees on view is their age, he said. “The awakening to a need for‘slow life’, and respect and admiration for nature and the environment are key elements evokedby the Tree Museum. Its spirit, its genius loci, will help to ‘externalize’ whatever it is these ancientshapes reflect in our subconscious,” he said.

The museum will feature approximately 50 trees representing more than 25 varieties, and showingseveral examples that are more than 100 years old. Sophisticated techniquesinfluenced by the ancient art of Bonzai shaping were applied to transplant and preserve thetrees. Another 100 trees and plants are located in the park surrounding the Tree Museum,which will also serve as a landscape architecture and space laboratory.In total, the museum and park zones contain more than 2,000 exclusive wood species that Eneahas collected over the past 17 years. The collection includes a 130-year-old red Japanese maple, and a Saucer magolia estimated to be between 75 and 80 years old and an 80-year-old English yew.

A central feature on the grounds is the 2,500-square-metre headquarters building of EneaGarden Design, which recently moved to Rapperswill from Schmerikon, in front of which sits a sprawling, lava-layered lake. The building was designed by American architecture firm Oppenheim Architecture & Design and houses an exhibitionof selected garden furniture, a library, a museum shop as well as a group of works of artand design. The building also earned an American Architecture Award 2009, by the ChicagoAthenaeum. Oppenheim Architecture & Design, which has offices in New York, Miami and Los Angeles, plans to open an office in Basel this month. Enzo Enea and Chad Oppenheim have collaborated in the past and are currently working on a master plans for center of the Chineseport city Tianjin.

So walk, bike or take a big yellow taxi to see the Tree Museum.

Jennifer Potash
News Editor

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