Observations and Images on Architecture, Culture and More, in Chicago and the World. See it all here.

A Forest Departs - Tree by Tree





[October 2, 2007] At a deconstructing park, Big John scoops 'em up and sends them on their way.

 -by Lynn Becker


The Magic of America, by Marion Mahony Griffin


Big John Tree Extractor
Like Birnam Wood, the proud maples are stealing away. They grew to maturity over the last decade and a half in the small park just south of Kenzo Tange's AMA Building - the only one he would design in the United States. For all those years, the park was a placeholder for a twin structure developer John Buck was never quite able to get off the ground. Until now. With hotel properties fetching record high prices, still another hotel/condo development is about to rise on the park, now enclosed in tall fencing, forcing local dog-walkers to the small strips of increasingly parched lawn remaining outside of it. (Watch your step: out of pique or laziness, some owners seem no longer to be cleaning up after their pets.)

One by one, the graceful trees have been plucked and deported. Big John, a giant tree transporting machine, does the grunt work. As you'll see in the sequence of photos below, it digs its blades deep into the earth, beneath the bulk of the tree's roots, ("The majority of the root system responsible for feeding and watering the tree reside within the first 3-foot of soil," we are told) scoops up the tree and lowers and secures it on a flat-bed truck to be driven away. For this project, the job was handled by Houston-based Environmental Design, "The Tree Transplant Specialists" (98% survivability, according to their website) .

The guy operating Big John at the AMA site this past Saturday may be the hardest working man in tree transplantation, a single-person crew that in a remarkably short period of time dug out the tree, placed it on his truck, trimmed and pulled in branches spilling over the wide load limits, maneuvered his truck into his exit position, opened the gates, drove out on the street, closed the gates, and began the journey to the tree's new destination.

The tree's removal was heart-breaking, but a lot less painful than having to watch it being dismembered with chainsaws and force-fed into a wood chipper for sawdust.

It would have been tempting to hop into a cab and find out where the tree was going, but the bottom line it's not coming back. For us, lost is lost. May it thrive in a new home as pleasant as the one from which it was exiled, and its shade and beauty bring as much happiness to others as did to us.

[POSTSCRIPT - read Harold Henderson's report on the trees journey and replantation in Humboldt park, from the Chicago Reader here.]

AMA Park, Chicago
AMA Park, Chicago

[POSTSCRIPT - read Harold Henderson's report on the trees journey and replantation in Humboldt park, from the Chicago Reader here.]

Add your comments on this story here.


© Copyright 2007 Lynn Becker All rights reserved.

The Chicago Children's Museum - The Battle Over Grant Park
Chicago Spire, Santiago Calatrava, architect, Marketing Begins

Santiago Calatrava Explains it All for You - The Chicago Spire

Sixteen Short Pieces on a City Neighborhood - Chicago's Logan Square

Toy Futures - Building Asia Brick by Brick, by Lynn Becker

The New Spertus Lightens Up
Uptown the Architecture of Dreams and Waking

Richard Nickel's Chicago

James Turrell's Skyspace at UIC

Planning and Its Disconnects in the city of Chicago