The Architecture of Trees

My father designed the split-level ’70s home where I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and to this day, it still houses my mother and sister. It’s a modest but comfortable home, but what usually gets noticed by new visitors upon driving up are the two entwined trees in the front yard, which wrap around each other like husband and wife. My dad and mom used to playfully remark to us kids that the trees were much like them: in love.

Recently my neighbors have been buzzing with the news that Build Urban is planning to remove three 100-ish year-old trees from the northwest corner of 37th & E. John in the interest of adding a new home on the property. Right about here is where I’ll hit the pause button—I’m not out for blood (or sap). I just completed a 3-year remodel on my own house two blocks up the street. In the process, I had to cut down a few trees (one was dead, the other plain ugly). And in the last year I’ve watched several surrounding neighbors’ small homes get purchased by developers who demolished them and built new homes—removing trees in the process. However, in all of these cases the biggest, oldest trees were left standing. It was as if there was an understanding that in The Emerald City, an emerald landscape would be appreciated by neighbors and future buyers.

That’s what makes the news that these three gentle giants are slated to be removed particularly sad. The trees all sit close to the street and are truly beautiful specimens. Given the choice, I imagine future buyers would value having such notable trees lining the street of their new home. Trees as grand and long-standing as these become a sort of architecture—the kind that can’t be designed or constructed by a crew. Only through a century of growth and stewardship can they stand sentry at the leafy pocket of 37th & E. John, a corner I (and others in the neighborhood) intentionally drive friends and family past, in order to wow them with old-growth, Northwest appeal.

Please leave the trees. The home you build will shine in their emerald glow, and every day, future homeowners will appreciate your choice to let them live—not to mention the whole neighborhood community that lives under and loves their exquisite canopy.

On the chopping block or part of the street appeal of future homes?

On the chopping block or part of the street appeal?

100 years in the making ... damn, that's pretty!

100 years in the making … damn, that’s pretty!

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