Forest Futures at Harvard GSD examines the cross-section of nature and urbanity

Black and white photography of trees in Frederick Law Olmsted–designed parks and a climate-forward plan for the hardscape around Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral are among the projects and research on view in Forest Futures at Harvard GSD.

The exhibition staged in the Druker Design Gallery was curated by Anita Berrizbeitia, a landscape architecture professor who teaches a course centered on forests and ecology. It collects work focused on the intersection of design and nature, with a particular lean to forests as they relate to urban settings.

On display is photography of trees in parks designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. (Courtesy Harvard GSD)

Forest Futures celebrates nature’s ineffable essence,” the curatorial statement read. “By urging a sensorial connection beyond observation, the exhibition underscores the limits of logic alone to fathom the natural world’s complexity.”

Like forests themselves, the projects and research on view are wide ranging in their scope and scale. Among those presented are local ventures in Cambridge and Boston and others in similarly urban environments across the U.S.—Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles—and beyond to Paris, Barcelona, and Guinea-Bissau.

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Projects on view center forests and landscapes around the globe. (Courtesy Harvard GSD)

In Massachusetts, the Cambridge and Boston Urban Forest Plan stems from a goal to bring more arbor cover to the Boston area, advancing a model other cities could adopt, while Paris’s Notre Dame revamp and Barcelona’s refresh of Passeig Sant Joan green up urban streetscapes with a focus on connectivity and social interactions. Other ventures on display call attention to topical global practices such as deforestation and forest management; each is rooted in “historical, technical, artistic, and scientific perspectives.”

These ideas are proffered through various media: projections, videos, photographs, and drawings. The exhibition itself is laid out like that of forest with seven easel-like constructions made of plywood that splay out from the gallery’s columns like tree branches and trunks. These wooden structures each comprise several framed elements holding the photos, drawings, and corresponding text. Elsewhere in the gallery the research lines shelves as prints, display boards, and digital screens.

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Exhibition material is displayed on plywood constructions modeled after trees. (Courtesy Harvard GSD)

Forest Futures: Will the Forest Save Us All?, a two-day conference held on February 15 and 16 coincided with the exhibition. Similar to its exhibition counterpart, the series of panels applied our general understanding of forests to topics such as health, environmental justice, and climate change.

Forest Futures is on view at the Druker Design Gallery at Harvard GSD through March 31.

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