On urban trees moving, climbing and tidying up


There’s a thaw on in Central Scotland and it’s a relief to see a bit of greenery. Bring on the green shoots, literal and otherwise.

UrbanTick reviews a few books and articles that look at the ‘mobility’ of trees in urban design and landscape architecture. They test assumptions about trees’ rootedness, reporting on things like seed vaults, the international migration of plant species, and the industrialisation of tree production.

They include Dominique Ghiggi’s Tree Nurseries – Cultivating the Urban Jungle: Plant Production Worldwide:

A tree is a tree is a tree, but it might have not always grown and lives where you just see it now. As the editor of ‘Tree Nurseries’ points out in the introduction the natural elements like trees in our cities usually are perceived as the last artefacts of nature and evoke a certain sense of place since greens don’t move, are immobile.

Reading through the book makes one quite quickly realise that this is not the case at all trees do move and especially the ones you see in your city definitely have moved a couple of times probably more often than yourself.

Meanwhile, Garden History Girl shows photos of an unpredictable planting arrangement. Designed by Balmori Associates for a temporary installation at the Bilbaojardin 2009 exhibition, the garden pours down an urban stairway.

The garden climbs the stairs, running in undulating lines of different textures and colors. Envisioned as a dynamic urban space; it moves in time and with the seasons. Its lush planting cascades down as though the garden was flowing or melting, bleeding the colors into each other. In one gesture, it narrates a story of landscape taking over and expanding over the Public Space and Architecture, therefore transforming the way that the stairs and the space is perceived and read by the user.

Finally, The Architectural League of New York’s UrbanOmnibus presents A Field Guide to Phytoremediation, “a handbook on how to remove contaminants from land using plants”.


Here, urban plants are shown to have an active role to play in redeveloping brownfield sets and making them fit for purpose, taking up and breaking down volatile contaminants, while stabilising the ground.

Phytoremediation is the use of plants to remove contaminants from the environment. By harnessing the natural capabilities of plants we can remediate toxic soils, groundwater, surface water, and sediments. Phytoremediation is a low-cost alternative to traditional brownfield clean-up. Instead of removing tons of toxic soil and filling the site with new clean soil, plants remove contaminants from the soil and store it within their plant tissue. In some cases, the plants themselves then have to be removed as hazardous waste, other plants break down the toxins and eliminate them altogether.


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2 Responses to “On urban trees moving, climbing and tidying up”

  1. More on urban ‘movement’ « External Works Says:

    […] External Works New ideas for public spaces and landscapes « On urban trees moving, climbing and tidying up […]

  2. Claire Thirlwall Says:

    Phytoremediation – great word, and great post!

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