1. The Japanese Train Station Built Around a 700-Year-Old Tree
The Big Kusu Tree of Kayashima, as the camphor tree is commonly known in Japan, is older than most records, but officials estimate that it has been around for at least 700 years. In 1910, when Kayashima train station was originally opened, the tree stood right next to it, offering travelers some much needed shelter on both sunny and rainy days. It didn’t bother anyone for the next 60 years, but as Japan’s population increased at an accelerated rate, overcrowding became a problem and local authorities decided that the train station needed to be expanded. Plans were approved in 1972, and the old camphor tree was going to be cut down.
The stories about how the ancient camphor tree of Kayashima cheated its fate vary, but they all border on the supernatural. Spoon & Tamago reports that the tree had long been associated with a local shrine and deity, and news of its removal caused an uproar in the community. Rumors about the tree being angry about the authorities’ decision also coincided with a series of bizarre events. People reported seeing a white snake slithering through the branches of the tree, others claimed to see smoke rising up from the tree, and a worker who cut off one of the tree branches developed a fever later that day.
The version posted by American expat July McAtee on her blog July’s Culture Medium is a bit darker. One of her Japanese co-workers told her that “that tree’s not there because Japanese people love nature or eco or want green or anything, Japanese people don’t think that way.”
“It’s just fear. Fear and superstition,” the man continued. “Twice when they tried to cut it down to build the station someone died. So they decided that it was a dangerous, powerful spirit, that the gods wanted it to live. They gave up and built the station around it. That’s how Japanese people think.”
Whatever happened over four decades ago, it was enough to convince local authorities to abandon their plans and expand Kayashima station around the camphor tree. Not only that, but by 1980, when the new elevated station was completed, the tree was converted into a sort of shrine, surrounded by a fence of sacred plaques and “wearing” a sacred shimenawa rope strung with shime strips, which apparently symbolizes the presence of a deity and wards off its curse.
2. Built around the tree: Media library in Bourg-la-Reine
The sides facing the street present the building’s two different façade designs. The east side features floor-to-ceiling glazing and allows passers-by to look into the building. In contrast, the south façade is almost completely closed off. Only two incisions mark the structure, one of which is the main entrance to the library.
Inside, the reading rooms are distributed over two storeys. Upstairs, the run of the folded roof is clear and creates room heights reaching seven metres. On the ground floor, extensive glazing allows the interior space to meld with the outdoor area to the rear of the building. This is where the structure winds around the old walnut tree and becomes a courtyard-like reading area. Terraced wood patios and a stone bench surrounding the tree invite visitors to stay a while.
While the media library created by Pascale Guédot Architecte seems a bit closed off to the outside, the interior opens up onto bright spaces and spacious reading areas. In particular, the interior courtyard with its venerable tree forms a hidden, idyllic place in the city centre. In the summertime, it becomes an inviting open-air reading room.
3. Restaurant Figueira Rubaiyat — Sao Paulo, Brasil
Brazil has a lot of big trees, but you wouldn’t expect to find one in the middle of a city this size. The restaurant incorporated the great tree into its architecture putting about a quarter of the tree inside the restaurant with the rest outside. The tree appears to be meticulously maintained by experts.
The place specializes in meat mostly raised by the owner of the restaurant and absolutely world-class. While this restaurant is often categorized by guidebooks as a typical “walking around with meat” churrascaria, it’s not. I ordered from a menu. There were no meat-bearing swords being dragged out. There’s an oyster bar with obscurities from southern Brazil and on certain days the restaurant also serves feijoada, the heavy bean and beef stew considered the national dish of Brazil. Everything is high-end and delicious. That said, this is a steak place foremost. The wine list has an excellent selection of obscure and fantastic Brazilian wines as well as a worldwide range of the usual suspects.
4. THIS ISN'T A GLASS HOUSE; IT ISN'T A TREE HOUSE EITHER
Kazakh architect Aibek Almassov designed the "Tree In The House," a cylindrical glass home built around a fir tree, back in 2013, but an investor backed out, making it impossible to construct. Now that glass and solar panel manufacturers have expressed interest in the project, Almassov's vision may become a reality.
"I've been looking for a solution that would help in the future to avoid the destruction of forests," Almassov wrote in an email to ELLEDecor.com. "We must live in harmony with nature."
Almassov's design offers four circular floors connected by a spiral staircase. As Dezeen points out, the bathroom's rounded shower parallels the form of the building. Other furnishings take advantage of the home's incredible views of the forest.
Should all go according to plan, Almassov hopes to begin construction on the project in Almaty, Kazakstan, in early 2017.
5. Japanese Kindergarten Built Around A Tree With A Legendary Story
The tree, which is about 50 years old, was nearly uprooted during a typhoon. It became totally lifeless and gray before, against everyone’s expectations, it recovered and became healthy once again. Before the kindergarten was even built in 2007, the tree was a popular place for kids to climb and hang out.
Now, the surrounding building’s windows face inwards at the tree so the children inside can see it all the time. For recess, or when they’re waiting for their bus, the kids can play on the platforms around the tree. An adult would only see 2 floors on the structure, but small meter-high levels give children places to explore where adults might not fit.
6. The road built around an araucaria tree (Brazil)
7. Beautiful Brazilian House Built Up and Around a Tree
The house was created for dentist and art collector Rodrigo Quadrado, a native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. When first discussing the undertaking with his architect, he specified that he did not want a house “that had a showroom face.” Despite a thorough appreciation of design and a desire for a beautiful space for his family, he wanted to the warmth and personality of a family home before the splendor of a magazine cover.
In order to accommodate Bethany as well as another tree in the garage, the architects decided to forgo air conditioning. In the heat of a Brazilian summer, this was certainly a bold choice. However, the shade from Bethany as well as the glass walls manage to keep the house cool and comfortable even in the hottest weather.
The materials used for this home were also largely dictated by the natural look desired by the homeowner. Sartore worked with warm materials such as paroba-do-campo (formally Aspidosperma macrocarpon) and wood stone, both of which exude a warm and familiar feel.
As an art collector, Quadrado also insisted on creating enough wall space for some of his beloved art, including works from Nuno Ramos, Meireles , Beatriz Milhazes , Jorge Guinle , Joaquim Tenreiro and Poteiro.
8. This Hillside House In Los Angeles Was Built Around A Tree
One way the designers were able to do this was by incorporating one of the mature trees found on the property, into the design of the home.
Upon arriving at the house, there’s a garage that opens directly into the home. While just beside the garage is a firepit and the kitchen, that has folding doors allowing it to be open to the fire.
Inside the home, the space has been divided into two units under the one roof. The main part of the house has two bedrooms and is designed for a family of four, while the other side is a self-contained one bedroom unit. An outdoor breezeway separates each unit.
9. Captain Tony's Saloon
The building itself has a long and macabre history, stretching back to the 1850s. Visitors will notice that inside the bar is a large tree that the bar is built around. Now a delightful natural centerpiece, in the 1800s it was used as the town hanging tree. At least 75 people were hung here for piracy.
In its storied past, the building saw time as a morgue, a bordello, a telegraph office, a speakeasy and a cigar factory. During refurbishing work in the 1980s, the floor boards were taken up to reveal the bones of between 15-18 people. Among them, a gravestone for a young woman named Elvira Edmunds was discovered. Miss Edmunds left the world in 1822 at the tender age of 21, her tomb marker now sits beside the pool table for eternity, or at least presumably until the bar changes hands again.
Another gravestone in the bar underneath the old hanging tree belongs to Reba I. Sawyer, a Key West native who lived from 1900 to 1950. Upon her death, her husband found scandalous letters between his wife and another man. The letters detailed their trysts, and how they would arrange to meet at Captain Tony’s Saloon. The widowed husband dragged his cheating partner’s tombstone from the cemetery into the bar, placed it under the tree, and supposedly said “this is where she wanted to be, so this is where she will stay”.