S03 - Halle and Del Tredici

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LUNCH, UVA’s Student Design Journal

04.11.14 SNACK 03: I am a Tree A Workshop with Francis Hallé and Peter Del Tredici


This pamphlet highlights a three-day drawing workshop let by tree architecture specialists and botanists Francis Hallé and Peter Del Tredici through the support of the Tracy P. Morgan Memorial Fund and the Howland Lecture Fund.


Essays by Hanna Barefoot and Lucy McFadden. Drawings by Katherine Cannella, Amanda Coen, Jennifer Livingston, Matthew Scarnaty, and Rachel Vassar. Photos by Leena Cho and Brian Osborn.


Danielle Alexander and Nicholas Knodt

You can imagine the planet with plants and not animals. It doesn’t change much things. Animals without plants? One week, that is it. No, not one week, four days. Francis HallÊ

INTRODUCTION by Hannah Barefoot “All trees appear to be too complicated if we don’t have the key. I will give you the key to trees.”

Francis Hallé

Renowned botanists, Francis Hallé and Peter Del Tredici came to Charlottesville, Virginia at the end of March to teach the UVA Landscape Architecture program about trees, sponsored by the Tracy P. Morgan Memorial Fund and the Benjamin C. Howland Jr, Memorial Lecture. Francis Hallé is a professor emeritus at the University of Montpellier – where he specializes in tropical rainforests. Hallé is a botanist, biologist, artist, activist, and poet. Peter Del Tredici is a botanist, gingko expert, senior research scientist emeritus at Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, and an Associate Professor in Practice at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

He researches wild urban plants, gingkos, and plant morphology. The weekend allowed for an intensive series of lessons, conversations, and arguments about trees through a series of workshops, walks, lectures and critiques – all related to plant architecture. As the first workshop on Saturday afternoon began, we gathered along a corridor papered in Hallé’s own abstracted, detailed interpretations of plant architecture. While we silently sat, Hallé began to draw on a board covered in paper. His pen marked the page with precision and ease – he warmed up by drawing a tree with pendulous branches and a small figure resting at the base. Hallé typically draws tropical trees; he studies them in their younger forms in order to understand the way the tree branches and new shoots grow. His process of drawing a tree stems from a desire to know how trees live.

Some trees are very simple, five minutes are enough. But for some other trees, for instance, the tea tree, it is terrible! After several years, I am still looking at the real pattern. Usually two days are enough. Francis HallĂŠ

HALLÉ’S JOURNEY by Lucy McFadden In 1975, Hallé and his colleague, a pilot and expert ballooner, unsuccessfully attempted to fly in a hot air balloon over the rainforest in French Guyana. The trade winds were too strong to collect specimens as Hallé planned. They needed to build an airfield in order to land on the canopy. Hallé consulted his friend and colleague, an architect from the Versailles School of Architecture, to design a canopy raft. Finally in 1989, Hallé landed for the first time on the tropical canopy. The suspended raft and the materials were light enough that the crowns of three trees could support the entire weight undamaged. The 600 square meter raft can hold 600 kilograms, approximately six scientists and their gear. In 1989, Hallé visited the French Guyana, and subsequently Cameroon, Madagascar, Panama, Vanuatu in the South

Pacific, and Laos. He has guided entomologists, zoologists, and local botanists to the top of the canopy.

“You cannot imagine how beautiful is the night up there. You have a clear sky, the Milky Way, a lot of insects doing lights everywhere and you have the huge music of all the fauna, the frogs, very small frogs inhabiting the branches, lots of birds, birds of night, monkeys, big mammals. You have the perfume of flowers much stronger ... I try not to sleep when I am on top of the canopy.”

Francis Hallé

Hallé compares the tropical canopy to a large table set for an elegant and delicious dinner. There is exquisite food, abundant flowers, and fine wines. The moment the guests are ready to sit down, an idiot arrives with a chainsaw and says, “Wow, your table has wooden legs. I am interested in wood.” Without a glance, he takes his chainsaw and he cuts the four legs. The dinner – the canopy – is destroyed and everything is lost.

Your cat is an animal, we are animals. So we understand very much better animals than we understand plants. But suppose we were plants! Animals would be funny things! Francis HallĂŠ

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