Architecture educators will work with schoolchildren to design structure for 2023 event

The organisers of next year’s Treehouses at Kew event have named the team that will design a fourth structure for the Royal Botanic Gardens’ celebration of architecture and arboriculture.

Architecture educators Matt+Fiona will work year-five children at Clarendon School, which is near the south-west London Unesco World Heritage Site, to create a treehouse on the theme of “the power of trees” for the event.

Last month the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Museum of Architecture charity picked proposals by India Aspin and Amy Jenkins Smith; Patrick Fryer, Thomas Randall-Page and Xylotek; and Kevin Kelly Architects with Stand as the three winners of an international design competition for the project.

A further three treehouses for the event – expected to attract around 1m visitors – will be direct commissions by architects from Kew’s “designated international scientific priority” countries.

The outdoor exhibition, which looks to communicate the value of good design and the role architects can play in addressing some of the most pressing problems faced today, runs from April to October.

Organisers described it as “a unique opportunity” to showcase creative and architectural thinking to design within and around Kew’s living collection and produce “inventive, accessible, and innovative designs”.

Pupils at Clarendon School, which caters to youngsters with learning difficulties and complex needs, have already begun taking part in workshops to develop the treehouse proposals.

The formal design process will include model making as well as creating their design on site at a large scale so they can directly experience and reflect on what is working well, and any changes they would like to make, before the final design goes in for planning with the other temporary structures.


Source: Matt+Fiona

A workshop with Clarendon School pupils for the Treehouses at Kew project

Matt+Fiona co-director Fiona MacDonald said the practice had been “endlessly surprised” by the imagination of pupils at Clarendon, and their ability to think afresh about what their treehouse could be.

“We hope – and suspect! – their design will completely transform what we expect a traditional treehouse to be,” she said. “The name ‘the Power of Trees’ is particularly apt given that it will be young people who will potentially be most affected by climate change during their lifetimes.”

Fellow director Matt Springett said watching the children running, hiding, hugging, lying underneath and looking up through the trees’ branches had been “completely inspiring” for the partnership.

“We think there could be dual respect and recognition for trees at play: not only for their fundamental importance of trees to the health of the planet, but also to our day to day joy and wellbeing as we experience the world with our rooted neighbours.”