Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Acers and architects

click photo to enlarge
I've written elsewhere in this blog about the way architects use trees and shrubs around buildings (see here and here). As far as trees go many appear to have a predilection for what I call "lollipop" trees, that is to say those trees that don't grow very tall and which can be easily pruned to produce a clear straight trunk topped with a pile of roughly spherical, elliptical or cone-shaped foliage. The species that lend themselves to this kind of treatment and which, therefore, abound around new buildings (at least in the UK) are: rowan, whitebeam, False acacia, bay laurel, crab apple, flowering cherry, acer, etc.

Recently, as I've travelled around, I've been struck by the number of new buildings that have been planted with acers of one kind or another, but especially those cultivars with leaves that turn a bright orange/yellow in autumn. I know from experience that though acers are hardy if sheltered they can be damaged by late spring frosts and cold winds. Consequently I'm a little puzzled at their apparent popularity in open, windy locations where they are frequently going to receive intermittent tending and are likely to be relatively dry in summer due to the hard surfaces around them. Perhaps landscape architects know something about these trees that I don't.

Today's main photograph shows the Boathouse Business Centre in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, a building that has featured before on this blog (click here, then scroll down). It has three of these trees giving bright splashes of colour that contrast with the white and muted tones of the building and paving. At this time of year it's easy to see the strong contribution that the trees make to the building and its location. Elsewhere in this development the alder - an interesting choice - is the main tree that has been used. The smaller photograph shows the decorative swan and part of the main facade of the former Fogarty Feather Factory in Boston, Lincolnshire, now converted to flats. I've also featured this building before. If you'd like to view the full facade or read of its history see here. In this instance the acer is not planted in connection with the old building but forms part of the landscaping of a car park in front of a fairly new "shed" i.e. a superstore selling computers and associated paraphernalia. I couldn't bring myself to photograph the tree in front of that awful building with its pink paintwork so I positioned myself to include the older facade and that very unlikely looking swan.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 24mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/640
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On