Alex Haw is director of the award-winning UK art/ architecture practice atmos.
His work, which spans the scales from buildings to installations, masterplans to furniture, seeks a synthesis of mind & body – creating meaningful, pleasurable, immersive and enduring experiences.
Much of his work involves sculptural ergonomics, innovative fabrication technologies and digital mapping, exploring the connectivity of people to their place in the world.
Talk: Building Nature
This paper gives a brief overview of the range of sculptural and interactive work at atmos before discussing in detail a large current public installation that combines digital design and fabrication intelligence with the pleasures of analogues nature (the flesh of trees and fruit and people) – the Mobile Orchard, centrepiece of the City of London Festival.
An inhabitable hymn to the urban tree, it centres on a large, sculptural oasis that beckons to be used as seating, shelter, stairway and sky-throne.
Its undulating roots offer a landscape for seating and lounging – including an armchair nook that cradles a gaze upwards into the trunk voids above.
The trunk leans back precipitously , inviting the intrepid to climb it. Branches magically splay into steps and seats. Its tip splits into a crown of branches – a voluptuous sky-throne that offers a perfect vantage point over the installation.
Sleek aluminium tendrils unfurl from the timber branches to support a canopy of translucent foliage, their “London Leaves” carved in the shape of the London Boroughs
The bark is grooved with radiating seams of dynamic lighting – luminous veins that run the length of the tree, to terminate in glowing bulbs above.
Each week, the tree is replenished with a bounty of fresh apples, encouraging visitors to explore and hunt for healthy sustenance, reminding us that trees provide food as much as structure.
The entire landscape was parametrically designed and digitally fabricated using scripts and algorithms that seek to rediscover the rules of growth so brilliantly exemplified by nature.
Over time, it is hoped other inhabitable trees will also spring from the ground to accompany the mother tree, a family of structures welcoming and embracing all who visit them.