Collection Magazine - Issue 1 - Autumn/Winter 22/23 - Magazine - Page 99
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of
Hoare's new building is his wish that it
should take on an organic life of its own,
in response to the life around it.
But although trees seem as permanent a presence in the landscape
as old stone buildings, most have a more limited lifespan. For some
years, it was apparent that this venerable 200 year-old cedar was slowly
dying. It began losing branches, then it became infected with a bracket
fungus, which gradually ate the heart out of its host. For safety reasons,
the cedar had to be felled.
The King was devastated, but he was keen to salvage something from
the calamity — a lasting memory of the faithful royal retainer. He wanted
to construct a new building above its roots — a structure which would fill
the hole in the landscape and give an interesting focal point to the garden.
The commission for an imaginative solution was given to Mark Hoare,
a former student of the King's architectural school, The Prince's Foundation
for the Built Environment, who had already assisted on other building
projects at Highgrove. Hoare wanted to celebrate the life of the cedar tree,
and hoped that he would be able to build something using its wood.
But cedar of Lebanon timber is full of knots — imperfections which
weaken the wood — and everyone he consulted said it would be too risky.
So he set to work on a design that would be built of oak, which would
encase a 10 foot-high remnant of cedar trunk left rooted in the ground.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Hoare's new building is his
wish that it should take on an organic life of its own, in response to the
life around it. Wild creatures will move in, plants will grow up and die
within it. In 30 years' time, the seedling oaks which have been planted
as part of the innovative structure may take over completely and it may
be decided to take the oak spire down altogether. “Over the coming
years, the wood will naturally change colour, but it will blend much
better with the landscape as it turns to grey, and then decorative gilding
which embellishes the structure will really stand out,” said Hoare. This is
a building which thoroughly integrates with its environment.
And, just 50 feet away, a young cedar of Lebanon grows strongly.
It is poised to dominate the scene, just as its predecessor did, well into
the next century.
Highgrove seduces the visitor and invites you into its own vision of
reality. Here is a world with arches of upturned tree roots, a thatched
treehouse, an Islamic tiled courtyard, a fern pyramid, a wall of collapsed
masonry fragments, heraldic shields, and a gilded bird alighting on an
iron column rescued from Victoria railway station.
It is indeed a magical touch of escapism which our new King is
happy to share.