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Tree Houses for Christchurch

Julia Morison, 'Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers', 2013, artist impression. Commissioned by Christchurch City Council.
Julia Morison, 'Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers' at dusk.
Julia Morison, 'Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers' daytime
A new work of public art for Christchurch to be enjoyed by old and young was announced today. 'Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers', designed by established Christchurch artist Julia Morison, will be insta


A new work of public art for Christchurch to be enjoyed by old and young was announced today. 'Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers', designed by established Christchurch artist Julia Morison, will be installed at SCAPE 7 Art Central on the corner of Gloucester and Colombo Streets in the vicinity of the proposed performing arts precinct in September.

Consisting of ten modular objects which read and function both as trees and as houses, Morison’s work can be explored on many levels. It incorporates light and plant forms, and creates spaces within for reflection and play.

This delightful work, jointly funded by Todd Foundation’s Special Focus Fund for art projects and the Christchurch City Council will remain as a permanent, re-locatable work in Christchurch City.

'Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers', commissioned by the Christchurch City Council’s Public Art Advisory Group and project managed by SCAPE Public Art, will be revealed by representatives of the advisory group, the artist, Todd Foundation and Hawkins, major sponsors of the project on Thursday 26 September 2013.

'"Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers" is the first post-earthquake sculpture we have commissioned for Christchurch’ says Public Art Advisory Group member, Jenny Harper. ‘Julia has created an installation which can be re-sited when the land is required for construction. It is an appealing work which invites people to engage with it and re-engage with the central city. We believe this is a work of public art appropriate for the city today, and it will be loved by many Christchurch residents.’

Julia Morison is a Christchurch-based artist. Her practice – incorporating painting, sculpture, photography and installation – is underpinned by a complex system of symbols.

Morison says ‘I invite those experiencing "Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers" to reflect on the way that structures and systems manipulate the way we see things. I hope that Christchurch people will come and interact with "Tree Houses": that it will become a new personality in the landscape of Christchurch where we meet and reflect on the changing face of our city.’

‘This artwork will contribute strongly to a vibrant, new, post-earthquake city’ says Sir John Todd, chairman of the Todd Foundation. ‘We particularly like the fact that children and families can engage with each other through the artwork, as this is well aligned to our focus on supporting inclusive communities in the new Christchurch. Congratulations to Julia on her innovative new work.”

'Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers' has been constructed by installing three metre tall hexagonal timber frames each on top of a precast concrete base. Above the timber frame, a steel planter holds live muehlenbeckia complexa plants and supports illuminated fiberglass rods which will reach another three metres above the planter frame. The combined ten ‘tree houses’ will span nearly 20 square metres of area.

'We have enjoyed taking a lead role in planning, constructing and installing the remarkable "Tree Houses" sculptural project’ says Steve Taw, South Island Regional Manager of Hawkins Construction. ‘Helping build communities is part of our culture, and our staff have worked hard for six months to deliver this project. The greatest thanks that they could receive is to know that Christchurch people have embraced the sculpture and are enjoying our new city landmark.’

SCAPE Public Art is working closely with Canterbury Museum to deliver an educational programme linked to 'Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers'. Geographically and historically, the sculptural work references the swamps in Christchurch which supported forests of kahikatea trees. Riccarton Bush has the only examples of these important trees left on the Canterbury plains and the free educational programme will include a visit to both Riccarton Bush and 'Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers'.

Julia Morison has exhibited extensively within New Zealand and internationally and has been the recipient of many key awards, grants and residencies. Morison received the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship in 1989 and the Moet & Chandon Fellowship in 1990. In 1999 Morison was appointed a senior lecturer in painting at the University of Canterbury’s School of Fine Arts, and she was named New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate in 2005. She was accorded a significant survey exhibition mounted by and exhibited at the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery in 2006.


Platinum: Todd Foundation, Christchurch City Council

Gold: Hawkins

Silver: Anderson Lloyd Lawyers, Aotea Electrical, CCDU, CERA, Creative New Zealand, RCP, JB Joinery, Energy Light, The Press Bronze: Architectural Roofing, Ashby’s Ready Mixed, Cosgroves, Farrell Construction, Hilton Haulage, Lewis Bradford Consulting Engineers, Libor Group, Metal by Design, Nuplex Construction Products, Peter Baker Transport, Resene, Rowlands Building, Placemakers Riccarton, Steel & Tube Reinforcing Division, Vulcan Steel

Contact details: 
Deborah McCormick, Director, SCAPE Public Art.

Written by

SCAPE Public Art

5 Sep 2013

Interests SCAPE Public Art install large scale, free-to-view contemporary public art in Christchurch city.