Tree as Archive: 

research & installation, The Social Body, design studio w/Cookies, 2020
group show The Social Body, Rotterdam, 2020.
Published on the MIARD archive.

In November 2020 the Vijverhofstraat running along the site of Hofbogen, entered the first stage of its redevelopment. Due to this 19 healthy Robinia trees were cut down from 31 October to 2 November 2020, despite strong disagreement and protest from the local residents.

This project critically examines the spatialization of bureaucratic processes. Tree as Archive is a proposition for a different kind of bollard infrastructure, enabling the citizen to disrupt the circulation of the urban space by pulling the installed fabric to create new spatial contexts and occupy the public space. It stands in the exact spots where the 19 cut trees stood. By that, it becomes the materialization of the resident’s disagreement and protest against the new layout of the street, collecting stories of the movement that emerged with the cutting of trees. Because wood samples can be read by scientists as archives of everything that has happened to the tree, the same logic is applied to the installation. Tree as Archive, therefore becomes an archive of events that happened around the trees.

The tree takes on the role of infrastructure when set into the urban space. In urban planning processes, it is assigned an economic value based on the services it performs, often being used in the process of gentrification. These services can include a range of functions such as regeneration of soil quality, sequestration of CO2, heat reduction etc.

By performing those services, cities can calculate the annual financial benefits provided by trees to extract economic value indirectly. This is a process of environmental offsetting, which can benefit developers in the city to mitigate the effects of environmental damage. The trees can consequently be used as assets to increase value.

The practice of architecture and urban planning play a significant role in this, often leading to the displacement of communities. In the context of urban development, trees are treated as costs on balance sheets of municipalities rather than assets. Due to this, 50% of urban trees don’t even make it past 10 years, when they can substantially have ecological benefits.

This is clearly visible in the case of the cutting in Vijverhofstraat. The trees fell because they didn’t perform a set economic value for the municipality or rather a better opportunity to extract value came along. The cutting of the trees is a spatialized process of bureaucracy and detached urban planning.
Ultimately the redevelopment of the street, and consequently, the cutting of the trees happened with the aim to improve the circulation of water, people, vehicles in the urban space.

Axonometric illustration of a single bollard. The banner is pulled out of the roll attached to the connecting concrete base. The bases function as a visual connecting element.

Axonometric illustration of an example of a spatial blockage of public space using the proposed bollard infrastructure. The structure allows for new ways to take over the public space.

Online archive platform by TreeCollective*

The TreeCollective* archive is an online platform holding the stories of the cut trees of the Vijverhofstraat. It is a collection of gathered research from the site visits, interviews, material collections and online research. Upon hearing about the trees being cut in the Vijferhofstraat, each one of us felt a need to tell a part of the story. While approaching the subject from different perspectives, we rediscovered the notion of city the trees and their importance within a community. The diversity of perspectives is reflected in the projects, ranging from spatial installation, textile printing, interactive publication making and photos, aswell as written prose.

*The TreeCollective is a collaboration between Nury Lee, Carla Acros, Naomi van Kleef and Eva Garibaldi.

Stage III: 60 years
© Eva Garibaldi 2023