There’s a time and a place for trees – don’t transplant them for our amusement | Rowan Moore


Making an exhibition out of living things rather defeats any environmental message they are supposed to convey

A gaggle of oak saplings has gathered outside Tate Modern. They were grown by the British artists Ackroyd & Harvey from acorns from the trees that the German artist Joseph Beuys had planted in the city of Kassel in the 1980s, in a “social sculpture” called 7000 Oaks. This temporary installation, the official blurb says, creates “a place for gathering and for rethinking our connections with nature”.

It takes its place alongside the forthcoming four-week appearance of 400 trees in the courtyard of Somerset House, by the designer Es Devlin for the London Design Biennale, which is also meant to make us reflect on nature and the environment. Plus, there’s a temporary wooded hill planned for Marble Arch and the different-but-related craze for putting trees high up on multistorey apartment buildings in Shanghai, Milan and Quito.

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