Naomi Punnett

Year 1 MArch

Rising from the Ashes: The Ash Arboretum

Emergency response to the pending extinction of Ash trees

Ashenbank Wood, Kent Downs

Ash trees hold the third most significant presence among tree species in the UK. Tragically, the prevalence of Ash Dieback, an incurable fungal disease, is predicted to result in the death of 95% of Ash trees in the UK over the next two decades, with devastating consequences. This rapid loss of canopy cover will particularly impact the intricate ecosystems and microclimates of temperate woodlands throughout the country. The proposed site is a vulnerable woodland in the southeast UK, known for its high infection rates and dense population of ash trees.

The primary objective is to halt the spread of ash dieback by disrupting the infection cycle through the implementation of a leaf harvesting system. By extending the lifespan of the trees, their natural resilience can be enhanced, thereby prolonging the ecological benefits they provide. Concurrently, researchers will identify, test, and cultivate resistant ash trees to ensure the long-term survival of the forest. Adaptable nursery spaces designed for emergency and growth will be employed for this purpose. A central observation tower will enable efficient management of the forest's overall health, while also serving as a prominent attraction to raise awareness about the program and provide navigation guidance within the woodland.

The architectural design visually represents the interconnected network of the forest through the use of interdependent tensile structures. This structural approach allows for a large-scale intervention with minimal disturbance to the forest floor. Emphasizing the well-being of the trees and prioritizing resource efficiency, the design aims to ultimately return the land solely to the trees.

Although the heavily infected ash trees present at the project's inception will inevitably perish, their demise will not be in vain. They offer an opportunity to integrate with the network without posing any risk to healthy trees. The new structure will serve as a memorial for the lost ash trees while actively supporting the overall health of the forest.

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