The Tree in Alison and Peter Smithson’s Architecture

Nieves Fernández Villalobos, Andrés Jiménez Sanz


Alison and Peter Smithson were heirs to an outstanding landscape tradition that refers architecture to nature, giving the tree a leading value in this linkage. Their trees are related to architecture in different ways: always respected, sometimes the tree becomes their geometric or symbolic centre; at times it is adapted and "involved" in family life; eventually, the tree is used as the generating idea of a project to later be forgotten or formally hidden, or on the contrary, to manifest itself openly through its construction; often, the tree becomes lattice and seems to dress the architecture, protect it and capture the landscape in fragments; until arriving, at the end of their work, to configure its formal limit. All of them, even the built ones, are trees in motion, which literally or symbolically narrate the course of time. The article attempts to rescue the importance of the tree and its precise configuration in each work, through the analysis of some projects. The way in which architects describe and draw this element in their texts and plans reveals their intention to rescue the beauty of everyday life and attend to the specific versus the generic; an interest that should be rescued in an increasingly globalized and impersonal world.


Smithson; Tree; St Hilda´s College; Upper Lawn; Yellow House.

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