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Conversations with Trees: A Biophilic Dialogue Between Nature and Design

June 10, 2024

Conversations with Trees: A Biophilic Dialogue Between Nature and Design

Visual Communication Design students in Dr. Peter Kwok Chan’s studio course embarked on a journey into nature as a wellspring of creativity during their Spring 2020 and Spring 2024 sessions. Nestled beside Hayes Hall, within sight of The Ohio State University’s renowned green expanse, the Oval, these students found inspiration at their doorstep. Throughout this spring semester, guest lecturers enriched their understanding of the Oval’s diverse arboreal inhabitants, unveiling the origins, histories, and unique characteristics of each tree. Engaging in an intimate dialogue with nature, these second-year students selected individual trees to study, examining their distinctive forms and deepening their appreciation for their environmental significance. Drawing from these conversations, each student crafted visual narratives encapsulating the emotional, social, political, and ecological dimensions of their chosen tree, presented in captivating 14-page accordion book compositions.

PhotoGraphic Course Design

In this course, second-year students majoring in visual communication at Ohio State Design undertake the creation of their form-progression exercise in an accordion book format. The curriculum immerses them in the realms of photography, typography, and graphic design, guiding them to weave layers of meaning through integration and juxtaposition. Culminating their efforts, students compile portfolios showcasing postcards, posters/banners, and accordion books. Within this exhibition, the collective resonance of the students’ accordion books hangs palpably, each book narrating a distinct tale curated by its creator and inspired by a dialogue with nature.

The Biophilia Design Theory

Trees stand as sanctuaries and emblems of growth, maturity, and grace, perennial sources of inspiration across song, literature, art, and design. The psychological resonance of trees and the natural world finds expression in the theory of biophilia, popularized by Edward O. Wilson. Biophilia encapsulates humanity’s innate inclination to seek communion with nature, a guiding principle underlying both the course curriculum and the student designs showcased in this exhibition.

Commencing Your Own Dialogue with the Trees

The students draw from shared experiences wandering amidst the venerable trees adorning the Ohio State University Oval. Many of these arboreal denizens boast rich historical, social, or biological legacies. You, too, can immerse yourself in this arboreal tapestry by embarking on a self-guided walking tour of the Oval, thoughtfully curated by Chadwick Arboretum & Learning Gardens. Visit go.osu.edu/treesoftheoval for further details and to obtain a walking tour brochure. As you peruse this resource, ponder the myriad ways trees have intersected with and enriched your own life journey.

The Exhibition

“Conversations with Trees: A Biophilic Dialogue Between Nature and Design” premiered on April 26 during the 2024 Arbor Day Celebration. At this event, Dr. Peter Chan received the respected Chadwick Arboretum Collaborators Award in recognition of his dedication to advancing the mission of Chadwick Arboretum & Learning Gardens through service and collaboration. This exhibition is open to the public until May 6 at The Ohio State University’s Kottman Hall lobby.

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