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Ancient Tree Pavilion by Christ & Gantenbein Architects, Jinhua, China

Christ & Gantenbein’s giant concrete tree is a playful addition to a new park in Jinhua. Photography by Iwan Baan

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this bizarre structure is that it was designed by the Swiss practice, Christ & Gantenbein, who were also behind the refurbishment of the Swiss National Museum in Zurich. This playful project for a new park in Jinhua finds C&G extemporising on a different theme, but both projects are linked by the creative use of concrete.

Christ & Gantenbein describes the drooping, arboreal confection as an ‘ancient tree’. Amid the newly planted saplings in the park it does have a curious aura of antiquity, suggesting that it has been there from time immemorial. Its voluminous canopy provides shelter from the rain and sun, and the deliberate, claggy imperfections of its casting and assembly contrast with the geometric precision of its surrounding landscape.

Constructed entirely from concrete, it celebrates the material’s plastic potential and will doubtless weather into something even more gnarled and venerable. Though the judges were intrigued by its organic form and the manner of its making, some disliked the final outcome. It was one of those projects you either warmed to or not. Nonetheless, it finally passed scrutiny and forms a whimsical coda to other projects in this issue.

Architect Christ & Gantenbein, Zurich, Switzerland
Project team Emanuel Christ, Christoph Gantenbein, Mona Farag, Benjamin Olschner
Structural engineer WGG Schnetzer Puksas Ingenieure AG

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