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Tree house at Botanic Garden uses wood from trees downed by storm

John Duvall, owner of the milling company Local Sawyer, prepares wood from a dozen types of trees. Photo by Elizabeth Peters

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

“Sandy Remix,” a specially commissioned tree house, opened to the public at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) this past weekend after a four-week installation process. 

With the exception of the screws holding it together, the interactive sculpture is constructed entirely of salvaged natural material from the Garden, including wood from dozens of trees felled by Hurricanes Sandy and Irene to create both the structural beams and decorative elements.

Nestled between Caucasian wingnut tree and Bluebell Wood, the nest-like structure stands 5 feet off the ground and offers approximately 200 square feet of space to serve as a viewing point, resting spot, and open-air classroom.

Artist Roderick Romero worked closely with BBG’s arborists and John Duvall, owner of the milling company Local Sawyer, to prepare the wood of over a dozen kinds of trees — including pin oak, black walnut, Persian ironwood, persimmon, willow, and Japanese flowering cherry — lost to the storms of 2011 and 2012.

“We actively sought ways to give trees the Garden lost to Sandy and Irene a second life in a way that our visitors could experience hands-on,” said Scot Medbury, president of BBG. “The tree house embodies some of BBG’s key qualities: sustainability, beauty, and a deep connection to New York.”

When viewed from above, Sandy Remix appears to swirl like the eye of a hurricane, with the tree materials curling up in a twisted motion around the central platform. Romero used wood of contrasting hues to entwine the storm imagery with that of enduring nature, cladding the tree house’s exterior in dark wood and the interior in lighter shades to evoke the natural color composition of a tree.

Gary Hattem, president of the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, which provided lead sponsorship for Sandy Remix, said “We are delighted to support a project that is not only artful and original, but offers an interactive experience for so many.”

Volunteers from Deutsche Bank USA worked with Roderick Romero for two days to help build the tree house, weaving woody material from “Natural History,” the Garden’s previous on-site sculpture by Patrick Dougherty, into its exterior cladding.

Throughout the year, the installation will host workshops and programs for children and adults.

April 5, 2013 - 3:26pm


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