The latest creation of UK designer Thomas Heatherwick, known as Tree of Trees, has been unveiled outside Buckingham Palace in London. And the work—a large steel trunk that supports steel branches bearing saplings in pots—is already dividing opinion.
Heatherwick’s structure will be unveiled as part of the official celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee from 2 to 5 June. “The sculpture seeks to put the importance of trees and nature at the heart of this historic milestone to celebrate Her Majesty, who has planted over 1,500 trees all over the world throughout the course of her 70-year reign,” says a statement from Heatherwick's studio.
After the Jubilee weekend, the 350 trees in their “special pots” will be given to selected community groups and organisations, celebrating their work and “inspiring the next generation of tree planters across the nation”, the studio adds.
But the structure has left The Guardian's architecture critic Oliver Wainwright unimpressed. “The result doesn’t quite live up to the Heatherwickian fairytale promise which saw his vision depicted with the usual misty-eyed bucolic charm of a Gainsborough landscape. [It stands] as a massively over-engineered structure that recalls a hastily disguised mobile phone mast,” he writes.
Other contributors on Twitter called the faux-foliage piece “very beautiful”, “a fantastic idea” and “well thought through”. Whether the Queen herself will like the sculpture will, as usual, remain a mystery. What really appeals to the monarch is always a matter of debate. “We know no more of her private taste or aesthetic preferences than the horses and headscarves and Balmoral heather, electric bar heaters and crimson carpets spotted in photographs and television appearances,” writes Ruth Guilding for The Art Newspaper.
Tree of Trees is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies and is not be funded by public subsidy. Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge project was abandoned in 2017 following a furore over the £43m spent on planning the proposed plant-filled walkway across the River Thames from Temple to the South Bank (£24m came from Transport for London and £19m from the Department for Transport).