Christmas is that time of year when architects around the world get really creative.
This is because cities everywhere are vying for the honour of hosting the most unconventional tree imaginable.
All design professionals who participate, from die-hard traditionalists to the serious innovation crowd, find the exercise a merry challenge in interpretation and stylisation. In all other respects, the ‘Christmas tree challenge’ is similar to designing any other project: approval from the planning committee, taking the surrounding environment into account, and in this instance, making the result safe for both children and pets.
Some Christmas trees double as public space. The Abies-Electronicus XMAS Tree designed by architects 1024 is a sculpture made from architectural scaffolding. The tree’s upper portion, which is resplendent in multicoloured lights and alive with sound, provides a view of Guebwiller in Alsace, while the base is a festive and busy hot-wine bar.
Many of these designer Christmas trees are made from recycled materials or uses in intriguing ways, adding extra value to the Christmas holiday message. Sara Wigglesworth Architects in London came up with a tree made from 35 recycled bike wheels.
These parts were borrowed from the UK charity Re-Cycle and arranged in a festive shape before being set up in Bermondsey Square. Extra reflectors, donated by Re-Cycle and local cycling shops, act as energy-free Christmas lights. Sometimes the design draws others into the Christmas spirit. Architect Ricardo Sanhueza De La Maza spearheaded a glass recycling campaign in every municipal school in and around Chiguayante, Chile. The drive yielded close to 19,000 bottles, which were creatively rearranged into a shimmering glass tree.
Other trees are unique and stylish alternatives to the traditional in-house Christmas evergreen. They still convey a sense of holiday warmth without all the glittering greenery, and as an added bonus, they are all easy to set up, take down, and store. Below are some crowd-pleasing examples.
Designed by Richard Babcock, this suspended tree seems to float over the gifts piled beneath it. Strategically positioned track lighting allows the tree’s unique design to throw gorgeous shadows around the room.
Holey Christmas Tree
The Holey Tree by Vladimir Ivanov is a flat pack style adornment made from birch ply. According to independent research, plywood trees are up to 80% more environmentally friendly than evergreen trees grown specifically for Christmastime. The Holey tree comes in two sizes: large (170cm) and small (90cm).
Studio Roso Tree
Designed exclusively for the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, this ‘tree’ is over four metres high and composed of 3.3 miles of elastic cord.
The Studio Rose Christmas tree in the V&A museum. Image by Loz Pycock.