MOBOT Branches Out

Missouri Botanical Garden, in St. Louis, puts extreme tree houses on display for its TREEmendous year-long exhibit in recognition of the International Year of Forests.

The showy blossoms of the cherry trees, found primarily in the Missouri Botanical Garden's Japanese Garden, captivate and grow amongst other flowering trees.

The showy blossoms of the cherry trees, found primarily in the Missouri Botanical Garden's Japanese Garden, captivate and grow amongst other flowering trees.

courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden

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St. Louis – The Missouri Botanical Garden invites visitors to branch out from the ordinary notion of tree houses with an original exhibition of nine TREEmendous Extreme Tree Houses. View the winning works of a juried competition to construct imaginative, non-traditional, ground-level structures beneath the canopy of the Garden’s oak, elm, gingko and other stately trees. The Extreme Tree Houses are on outdoor display Saturday, April 30, through Sunday, August 21, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The exhibit is included with general admission and highlights the Garden’s TREEmendous year of activities in recognition of the United Nations (U.N.) International Year of Forests. For more information, visit the Missouri Botanical Garden on the web.

The Extreme Tree Houses exhibition is designed to showcase the creativity and talent of the local community while also reinforcing the significant role trees play in our lives and in the health of our planet. Designers were encouraged to ponder the concepts of sustainability, exploration and play in the outdoors, nature-inspired design, imagination and more through their installations.

Seven tree houses were selected as winners of the juried competition:

● Inside the Tree House, located beneath a red oak tree (Quercus rubra) and designed by a team from Ann Florsek Architect, LLC; Villinger Construction Co.; Teiber Construction Co., LLC; and Thies Farm and Greenhouses. Sprouting from a giant seed pod (helicopter) of a maple tree, the hexagonal shaped house incorporates re-purposed wood, green roof technology, solar power and a recycled rain water system. Sustainable features including root tunnels, leaf shutters and models of forest inhabitants are designed to educate, entertain and enchant.

● The AMAZEing Rings, located beneath a ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba) and designed by students from Washington University. Designed to look like an expanded tree ring structure, the tree house has an outer wood layer and inner core of radiating fabric rings that represent the tree’s biological structures, including the outer bark, cambium cell layer and heartwood. A two-way traffic path runs throughout the rings, lined with educational panels explaining the functions of different parts of the tree.

● Sweet Gum Tree House, located beneath a sweet gum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) and designed by Roost Design Studio. Created to act as a “Gateway to the Garden,” the tree house features a structural pathway allowing Garden visitors to view the cedar trees, Jenkins Daylily Garden and Milles Sculpture Garden pools from a new perspective.

● A Treed Place of Play, located beneath a tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and designed by Manzo Architects. The structure recreates the impromptu hideouts found and explored by children. Two canted L-shaped structures surround the tree, producing an enclosed play space equipped with eye-slits and hidey-holes at all heights. Relax after play by laying back to enjoy the framed view of the dappled canopy and sky above.

● Reflections Tree House, located beneath a sycamore tree (Platanus occidentalis) and designed by students from Ranken Technical College, is largely inspired by the aerial and buttress roots cast by many larger trees that exemplify the beauty in nature. The name “Reflections” stems from the way the design of the canopy mimics that of a tree, giving it a natural feel as if it were part of the tree itself, and providing a place to rest and reflect.

● Nomad Nest, located beneath a sycamore tree (Platanus occidentalis) and designed by students from the Kansas City Institute of Art. The Nomad Nest aims to demonstrate ways to sustainably use urban flora every day. The design’s woven, salvaged branches and saplings create a durable, dome-like structure surrounding the tree. Outside planters contain wild edibles and a kids’ crawl space; a table and seats inside are designed for an informal gathering.

● Treehenge, nestled between a silver linden (Tilia tomentosa) and western soapberry (Sapindus drummondii) and designed by Burns & McDonnell. Treehenge is where the TREEmendous Great St. Louis Tree Hunt begins. The design is constructed with a bamboo base and frame, creating a space surrounded by constructed trees featuring reused utility poles donated by Ameren. Within the space are pictures, maps and GPS coordinates to aid in the search for the 30 marked trees throughout the metro St. Louis region.

Two Extreme Tree Houses were commissioned from Christner Inc.:

● A “Living” Room in a Garden, located beneath an Amur cork tree (Phellodendron amurense). Fashioned as a typical “living room” with the focus on a grand tree instead of a hearth, the room is defined by salvaged Christmas trees which have been recycled into the construction material and fabric. A wooded log enclosure surrounds three sides of the tree like a fireplace with a stone hearth in front, and the tree’s canopy is the ceiling. A “rug-like” accessible seating area is crafted from fir and pine needles and small branches. Children can build and create with oversized logs in the play area.

● House+Tree=Phi, located beneath a Chinese elm tree (Ulmus parvifolia). Pondering the notion that a tree can express one’s inner-most personality and assist the creative imagination, the tree house is a formal abstraction of how humans connect themselves with trees, nature and the universe through one of the most classic expressions in western culture: Phi. Through its form, illustrative panels and elements of found objects, the structure uses the classical principles of Phi and the whimsical construction of traditional tree houses. The tree house is co-created by Engraphix Inc.

The TREEmendous Extreme Tree Houses exhibit debuts during the Garden’s TREEmendous Forest Festival weekend, Saturday and Sunday, April 30 and May 1 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To celebrate National Arbor Day, come experience and enjoy the Missouri Botanical Garden’s historic, state champion and other significant trees with a weekend full of expert-led tree tours, tree care demonstration clinics and hands-on workshops. Families can learn how to transform their own backyard or neighborhood trees into fun places for creative outdoor play. The TREEmendous Forest Festival weekend is presented by Macy’s.

Stop by the TREEmendous Interactive Discovery Center to immerse yourself in the world of trees. The Brookings Interpretive Center (adjacent to the Climatron®) has been transformed into a forest of fun, discovery and learning, filled with hands-on, interactive experiences. Create artwork out of tree parts, dress up as a tree, test your tree I.Q. and experience what life is like in a forest canopy. Curl up with a book under the canopy of the story tree, take in a forest film on our big screen and even share your favorite tree stories and memories in the Tree Tales community journal. Whether stopping by for a few minutes or a few hours, visitors are invited to learn about the extraordinary trees among us, discover the many roles trees and forests play in our lives and get inspired to take action! The Interactive Discovery Center is open all year from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., beginning April 1.

The Great St. Louis Tree Hunt branches the celebration of trees out into the community. Explore the great outdoors by joining The Great St. Louis Tree Hunt to find at least 15 of 30 marked TREEmendous Trees throughout the metro region (including Missouri and Illinois). Download an area guide, clue map and photo journal from the Missouri Botanical Garden’swebsite. Explore the St. Louis region with family and friends in search of each tree, document your findings and bring the completed guide to the Garden’s TREEmendous Interactive Discovery Center to receive a special tree-themed reward. The Great St. Louis Tree Hunt runs through Friday, April 30, and is presented by Gamma Tree Experts.

The 2011 TREEmendous year of activities is sponsored by Ameren Missouri and Novus International. The Extreme Tree Houses exhibit is supported by the U.S. Green Building Council St. Louis Regional Chapter.

Admission to the Missouri Botanical Garden is $8; St. Louis City and County residents enjoy discounted admission of $4 and free admission on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until noon. Children ages 12 and under and Garden members are free.

For more information, visit the website of the Missouri Botanical Garden, call 314-577-5100 or toll-free 800-642-8842.

More than 37,000 households in the St. Louis region hold memberships to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Memberships begin at $65 ($60 for seniors) and offer 12 months of free admission for two adults and all children, plus exclusive invitations and discounts. Members help support the Garden’s operations and world-changing work in plant science and conservation. Learn more at the website.

The Missouri Botanical Garden is located at 4344 Shaw Blvd. in south St. Louis, accessible from Interstate 44 at the Vandeventer exit and from Interstate 64 at the Kingshighway North & South exit. Free parking is available on-site and two blocks west at the corner of Shaw and Vandeventer.

The Missouri Botanical Garden’s mission is “to discover and share knowledge about plants and their environment in order to preserve and enrich life.” Today, 152 years after opening, the Missouri Botanical Garden is a National Historic Landmark and a center for science, conservation, education and horticultural display.