The Curiosity Chronicles

Musings on Meaning.
I'm Paul Bennett. I work at IDEO. I'm a designer. I'm curious.

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  • March 5, 2012 12:18 am

    Curious About…Supertrees.

    In sharp contrast to yesterday’s post about the delicacy of paper trees…I’ve been driving past these amazing structures every day on my way to the office: vast metal branches, undulating helper-skelter walkways, looking like a set from ‘Avatar:’ the latest magnificent Singapore experiment…The Supertrees.

    The towering creations, which already weigh hundreds of tonnes and are due to weigh even more when canopies are added to their ‘branches’, are set to mark a new attraction. A vast green space is to be created in the area, which currently looks more like a building site, as part of an ambitious project to make Singapore the ‘botanical capital of the world’.

    Once completed, the installation will house a cluster of green conservatories and inside the Supertrees themselves, plants from around the world will be displayed. The park will also become home to the Singapore Garden Festival. Hanging gardens and rainwater catches will be added to the trees and a 22-metre high walkway is being made between two of the canopies allowing guests to take in a view of the scenery. The Gardens at Marina South is one of three waterfront garden projects under the massive Gardens by the Bay initiative, with the other two in Marina East and Marina Center.

    Each Supertree will have added to it a canopy weighing around 20 to 85 tonnes which will be hoisted into place over three to four hours by a hydraulic-jack system. Steel frames are then added onto the sides to represent the dark bark of natural woodland. Environmental experts have even been drafted in to add solar panels to seven of the trees. The energy will then be used to light the areas below.

    What Of It? You’ve got to hand it to Singapore: like the Middle East, it certainly does not lack bravery or vision when it comes to architecture. Massive man-made trees might not be to everyone’s taste, but on a tiny island with very little empty space left (and almost zero jungle) I guess the rule of thumb is “Why Not?” At least there is some wit and irony here; one of the things I consistently feel walking around contemporary Singapore is that the architecture is eccentrically playful and whimsical (a boat set on top of three tower skyscrapers is right next door with a science museum that looks like an upended bunch of bananas at its base.) I have to say, these trees look pretty Super to me, and I’m sure will become a major attraction. And the fact that they are green in both senses of the word is also a good thing. This is as perfect for Singapore and all its tropical exuberance as the High Line is to New York’s cerebral seriousness.

    I Am Curious about play, eccentricity and whimsy in architecture, about cultures of bravery and fun, about new vernaculars and experiments in public spaces.

  • May 25, 2011 4:44 am

    Curious about…Why.

    Six months after predicting his own murder, a leading rainforest defender has been gunned down in the Brazilian Amazon. José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria do Espírito Santo, are said to have been killed in an ambush near their home in Nova Ipixuna, in Pará state, about 37 miles from Marabá.

    I heard this yesterday and found it heartbreaking. I met José a few months ago when we were both speakers in Brazil at a TEDx Amazonia event. At dinner one night he told a group of us that he had been receiving death threats.

    According to a local newspaper, Diário do Pará, the couple had not had police protection despite getting frequent death threats because of their battle against illegal loggers and ranchers.

    Ribeiro was a community leader of a rural Amazon sustainable reserve that produces nuts and natural oils native to the forest.

    As loggers moved into Para state, Ribeiro increased his candid denouncements of illegal clear cutting in the region, which earned him praise from environmentalists but allegedly scorn from logging and business interests who hold enormous influence in the heavily deforested region.

    In his moving TEDx speech, José acknowledged that his work battling illegal loggers put him in grave danger. ”I could be here today talking to you and in one month you will get the news that I disappeared. I will protect the forest at all costs. That is why I could get a bullet in my head at any moment … because I denounce the loggers and charcoal producers, and that is why they think I cannot exist. [People] ask me, ‘are you afraid?’ Yes, I’m a human being, of course I am afraid. But my fear does not silence me. As long as I have the strength to walk I will denounce all of those who damage the forest.”