"The Happy Man Tree in Hackney"
Section MS10, Matthew Darmour-Paul
Keywords: community, photogrammetry, model making
The celebrated 'Happy Man Tree' at the end of Woodberry Grove in Hackney Borough, has managed to survive two world wars. But recently it has joined 51 other trees to be cut down for 584 new build homes as part of the Woodberry Down Regeneration development. The residents of Woodberry Down have been campaigning to save the tree (#noticethistree), creating a website, installing artwork, and setting up a petition. Backed by these campaigns, the tree was nominated and topped the poll as 2020’s 'Tree of the Year'.
Despite the community’s campaigns and petitions, this quintessential urban tree was cut down on the 5th of January 2021, the first day of the third national lockdown. A large group of security guards, bailiffs and police arrived to take possession of the tree and cut it down. One protester had been camping in the tree on wooden decking but was removed by police. The urban street tree was planned and planted as a symbol of civilisation, and now it was cut off under the name of ‘Elevated style’ of a new luxury apartment complex.
This project aims to see the conflict between the community, developers, and the council and document the collective memory of the Happy Man Tree. The methods of the compilation proceeded in three phases. The first one is to look into the microscopic and biological aspects to investigate and document the tree. A tree can be a tool to show the compilation of time and environment, especially the soil composition and the layers of bark. And this process aims to reveal the accumulated history and time. The second one is the macroscopic and social way to look at the tree and the conflict. This process includes the community’s campaigns and intervention by documenting the social media channels and hashtags, and this documentation will show the collective memory of the tree and rethink the meaning of community.
After a phase of documentation, the tree was regenerated in the 3d model using photogrammetry. More than 60 images of the tree were calculated and remodelled in 3d format and printed. This reproduction method will be a tool to capture and archive the memory of the tree and explore the relationship between the tree and the community. The reproduction of the tree is a part of a terrarium and it will create its own new ecosystem in a glass jar with some part of the tree such as the branch and seeds.