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Help an Architect


My name's Ash. I'm an Architect currently working on a concept design for a community centre. 

The design comes together to represent community and togetherness through strands rising out of the ground and twisting together to form an intertwined rope. See the picture attached. 

For many reasons, I would love this 'rope' structure to primarily be made up of some kind of plant, tree or shrub. Currently it's shown in Corten steel, but, this is neither realistic or sustainable. 

So, to that end; I'm looking for any recommendations of reasonably quickly growing climbing type plants, (or indeed anything else that you feel would be suitable for this project), that will preferably be green most of the year round.

This is unknown territory as far as i'm concerned, and my landscape Architect likes to keep plants in the ground... Therefore, I'm looking forward to sharing your wisdom! 

Thank you in advance. 


P.s. Ignore the tree and the square bush, this is still very early development.



  • wild edgeswild edges Posts: 9,914
    How tall is the structure and will the sculptural element stay in place or will the plants replace all of that? Looking at the doorway height the horizontal part if 5-6m from ground level?

    My first thought would be to use pleached trees as you could train the branches to twist like your original concept. It would be a very long term plan though given the heights involved. I've seen really nice sculptural effects like this using living willow.

    It might be cool though to have planters at the tops of the columns that have plants that trail and scramble. Use the columns as they are to look like trunks with plants spilling from the top in a tree like fashion.

    Tradition is just peer pressure from dead people
  • FireFire Posts: 17,348
    Hi Ash, and welcome to the forum. I might suggest  pleached trees, perhaps copper beech - which retains its brown leaves through the winter. However it would take scheduled professional help to train them / keep them fully trained and pruned, healthy and initially well watered, which might be a big undertaking for a community centre.


    I worked supporting community centres and other local projects for years and would regularly see gardening plans started and abandoned after a few years, because
    -the visionary had moved on
    -there wasn't staff to work on the project
    -staff were expected to add the gardening to their duties and had no time / expertise to look after it
    -volunteers were going to look after it - they never materialised, started and then left or had no expertise/ resources
    -funding was on a year by year basis and ran out.
    -the gardens were not prioritised

    I guess the good thing about a sustainable sculpture is that it takes little maintenance. Gardens (pleached trees especially) are all about maintenance. The easy bit is planting them.  I'm currently involved with local neighbourhood garden groups who always face the same questions. There is a pergola on a local common that had initial funding to growing grow climbers up it but no plan for who was going to water and tend the climbers, so they have died and the common neglected, which is very sad to see, when I walk past it.

    Not to wet blanket your plans, but do give the 5 to 20 year garden plan some specific and detailed thought.
  • tuckshatucksha Posts: 5
    Wild Edges - You’re spot on with the height, the bottom most strand will be 6m from finished floor level, with the maximum span of the twist 1550mm, therefore maximum height would be about 7.5m.

    I love the idea of planters at the top and allowing something to trail down and through the twists! That would be really cool! 

    Though, in that, the idea would be to significantly reduce the amount of steel here, (currently about £4m worth including bending).

    Which brings me onto Fire. Assuming there’s a cost saving of a lighter weight form, then the procurement route would allow for some long term maintenance in the pre-construction budget, this is a circa £20m scheme, with focus on comminity involvement learning, so, there is funds available for training to any volunteers, and a long term maintenance contract for the building.

    Copper Beech looks fantastic! Though, what sort of timescale would I be looking at to form/train 20m or so of this. Ideally, and this is where organic matter frustrates architects, the solution would be realised instantly on completion, with the process of growing/training during the course of manufacture and construction? Would this be possible with anything? 

    As dangerous as it is, would Japanese Knot Weed be any use? Assuming it could be contained? (Though, there will be some legal hoops to jump through..) 

    Thank You,

  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,968
    Wisteria?  It would be a long while before stuff is covered in green though.  Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans).. that stuff is fast, and tough.  
    Utah, USA.
  • FireFire Posts: 17,348
    edited May 2018
    My first post crossed with Wild Edges as I take so bloomin' long to write things. You can buy mature trees. You could plant 7m+ trees.

    Is the long term maintenance contract for the building cast-iron ring-fenced and index linked?

  • Definitely NOT Japanese knotweed!  I think it's a "notifiable" weed, and have heard that if people don't make efforts to eradicate it they can even get an ASBO!
  • wild edgeswild edges Posts: 9,914
    It's illegal to plant or even allow it to grow knotweed in the wild but I don't know about on private property. It would be a costly pain to maintain though, I don't think anyone would thank you for it :#

    I wonder how large a column would need to be to be hollow and contain enough soil to support live willow long term at the top. Maybe bamboo?
    Tradition is just peer pressure from dead people
  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 22,309
    Japanese knotweed? Don’t even think about it.
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • tuckshatucksha Posts: 5
    I’ll steer clear of the knotweed! Haha,

    A willow tree would be phenomenal! I’ll have to do some research, though, the structural engineer isn’t going to thank me! Haha 
  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,530
    If you have planters at the top with hanging plants, they will need many times the amount of water than plants in the ground.  Not very eco-friendly.  Will future generations be glad to inherit such a high maintenance structure?
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