architect: Glenn Howells Architects

location: Westonbirt Arboretum, UK

year: 2016

The Stihl Treetop Walkway by Glenn Howells Architects provides stunning new views over Westonbirt Arboretum, home to one of the finest tree collections in the world. It holds 16,000 unique specimens including a 2,000 year-old lime tree, all carefully laid out in woods, rides, glades and downs that form a beautiful Grade I listed historic landscape. At almost 300m in length, the route takes a sinuous form, snaking above and through the tree canopy supported by elegant scissoring timber legs spaced at 10.5m intervals that hold the structure in the air. At four points along the route the walkway also gently widens from 1.9 to 3.7m, providing spaces for pause, reflection, and interpretation of the surrounding woodland.

photo by Rob Parrish
photo by Rob Parrish

Referencing the genetic code of trees in its design, the walkway was inspired by the complexity and elegance behind the fundamental structures of trees. This was then expressed with parametric principles, which can transform a single line into a detailed design model using algorithms and parameters. This parametric approach enabled greater experimentation, ultimately ensuring a more elegant and seamless design. After considerable testing the leg spacing was set at 10.5m allowing for a visually continuous flow, spanning roads and minimising the impact on existing trees. Striving for excellence throughout, in terms of materiality the structure ingratiates itself with its environment thanks to a sensitive approach to design and material selection. The walkway is constructed of larch which ages gracefully, the timber weathering to a silver-grey to complement the steel balustrade.

Informazioni di progetto

Cliente: Forestry Commission
Architetto: Glenn Howells Architects
Ingegneria strutturale: Buro Happold
Impresa: Speller Metcalfe
Costo: £1.7 M
Dimensioni: 284 m lunghezza - 1.9 to 3.7 m larghezza - Up to 13.5 m altezza
Risultato concorso e incarico: 2010
Inizio cantiere: Aprile 2015
Completamento: Aprile 2016

Lo studio Glenn Howells Architects è stato fondato nel 1990, affermandosi durante questi 25 anni, come uno degli studi di architettura più influenti del Regno Unito. Con due sedi, a Birmingham e a Londra, lo studio porta avanti un modo di lavorare incentrato su chiarezza e uso innovativo dei materiali. Vincitore di numerosi concorsi nazionali ed internazionali, Glenn Howells Architects ha ricevuto oltre 100 premi per svariati progetti, da edifici culturali e complessi residenziali a progetti urbanistici a larga scala territoriale.