Elevated tree-like obelisks light up Granary Square in London’s King’s Cross as a socially distant Christmas celebration, designed by Sam Jacob Studio to be a crossover of “a fairy-tale forest with modern architecture”.
Dubbed the Electric Nemeton, the 11 metre-tall (36 feet) installation by London architecture practice Sam Jacob Studio comprises a group of green, pyramid-shaped structures of different sizes that emulate a forest of Christmas trees.
The design aims to offer a futuristic take on the traditional Christmas tree, specifically the type that stood in ancient Celtic forest groves called Nemetons, which once served as sacred gathering places.
Visitors to Granary Square in King’s Cross, London, can walk under the elevated, four metre-tall (13 feet) pergola that is held up by columnar galvanised steel trunks.
Timber joists have been used to create the skeleton of each pyramidal tree structure, while coloured scaffold netting has been stretched over these frames to give them body.
Lighting elements placed under the tree structures highlight their translucent quality at dark, illuminating the installation in hues of green with a few pops of orange and red towards the back of the group.
“These simple materials expose the construction process while their layering creates something more magical,” said the studio. “As you move around, the structure is sometimes more see through, sometimes more solid. Its colours fade and bleed from one to another.”
Sam Jacob Studio wanted the installation to act as a “social gesture” by offering an open-air space that people could visit in a safe manner in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Part tree, part space frame, it creates a space to walk through, a stage for social life and a sculptural object in Granary Square,” said Sam Jacob Studio.
“As public space has taken on new significances during Covid-19, the Electric Nemoron contributes a little more to the possibilities of winter life outdoors,” it continued. “A structure that itself is an event, somewhere to explore and a platform for open-ended use.”
“Like all winter tree traditions whose symbolism is intended to ward off the darkness and act as a gesture of hope for the return of the sun, the Electric Nemeton also expresses an idea of hope for the return of our social and public lives,” the studio added.
The Electric Nemeton installation was commissioned by King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership, and brought to life in collaboration with engineering studio AKTII, lighting company DHA Designs and furniture manufacturer Jamps Studio.
Sam Jacob Studio was founded in 2014 by Sam Jacob, who was one of the three founders of influential architecture studio FAT.
More recently, the studio designed a shelter in the Yantian port district of Shenzhen, China, comprising a mixture of geometric and abstract shapes that take cues from municipal structures and neolithic monuments.
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