The Architecture of Trees versus that of Buildings

I used to like to take pictures of UCI buildings as I walked around the campus.  Now I am fascinated by the trees.  There are 53 types of trees in the central, circular area Aldrich Park.  That is named in honor of our first Chancellor, Dan Aldrich, who was a soil scientist, and planned the campus.  There are also a total of 78 types of trees on the academic campus.  The original trees were quite exotic, chosen from Mediterranean climates around the world.  Now they are focusing on native California vegetation, as is the mode in these days of drought.

I have started putting my tree pictures on my flickr account of dennis.silverman

Here is the link to the current Green and Gold list of UC Irvine campus plants, with trees listed from page 2 to 5:

The buildings around the campus all have some unique architectural feature, such as an entrance, or window styling.  But they are large buildings and monotonously uniform from segment to segment.  They are also colored as variations on Mediterranean pinkish, as are the homes in University Hills on the campus.  This color has the advantage of reflecting sunlight, and helping keep buildings cool.  It does, however, warm pathways, and hence shade trees are welcome.

Trees, on the other hand, have their own special types of trunks, leaves, and styles of branching out.  They also have unique shapes even within their own species depending on how they have been trimmed, and how they strive to achieve sunlight among buildings or other trees.  So they grow where the sunlight is best.  They also have different ways of generating, nourishing, and propagating their seedlings.

Trees also have their different cycles of adapting to the seasons.  Some are evergreen or coniferous, sprouting cones. Some are deciduous, with broad leaves, going bare in the winter, but not before they turn brilliant colors of brown or red or gold.  Some have wonderful flowers in the spring.

While architects may spend a few years planning their buildings, trees have been experimenting in design and climate and soil adaptations for 250 million years.  There are 100,000 species of trees.  For example, there are over 100 species of pine trees, with over 30 in North America.

While buildings are static after being built, trees keep adapting in shape and growth throughout their lifetimes.  Trees with their branches and leaves also are dynamic in waving in the wind.

Of course, all trees have some shade of green for their leaves.  But we know that is to generate energy for their functioning from sunlight, and to get carbon to build their molecules.  In converting CO2 to Oxygen, they also create the energy source of fauna. Forests also absorb 30% of CO2 that is man-made.  56% of that absorption is by tropical forests.

The campus is built around an inner and outer circle, with about six academic “quads” arranged about it.  Residences and parking lots surround them.  Students can enjoy the flora while walking around the doubly paved Ring Road, or the inner  ring which is now a split bike path and pedestrian path.  They can also take shortcuts across the inner disk of Aldrich Park.  The Business School, Medical School, and Fine Arts Complex lie outside the inner and outer circle of basic academic area buildings.

The architectural contrast of buildings and trees is also reflected in the activities that go one within or around them.  The buildings have academic offices and labs for intense work and research.  The lecture halls find students concentrating on lectures, and taking stressful exams.  Yet the walks around the trees reflect the beauty and design of nature, the unhurried, slow seasonal response of the trees, and the slow, calm, continuos growth over the 50 years of the campus.






About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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