They may be shaped like conifers, but these amazing trees are actually made of anything but pine. Think: hand-blown crystal, LED lights and books
If there’s one seasonal ritual to look forward to, it’s decorating a Douglas Fir. While there’s much to appreciate about a real garland-draped conifer, this year, designers are reinterpreting the Christmas tree’s iconic form into celebrations of light that don’t involve chopping down a sapling. Here are our favourite boundary-pushing trees of the season.
12 Trees at the Gardiner Museum
Artist and author Douglas Coupland is no stranger to lighting effects. His most recent public art installation, unveiled in Calgary, involves thousands of LEDs embedded onto the facade of a condo, and which pays homage to the Northern Lights. At Toronto’s premier ceramics museum he’s been enlisted, along with artist Ben Mills, to curate the Gardiner Museum‘s annual 12 Trees: Let There Be Light exhibit. The results are diverse, ranging from angular tree-shapes made of refracted light to displays of sparkling whimsy (as with Julia Callon‘s Disco Tree, above right).
Our favourite comes courtesy of Jordan Söderberg Mills, who AZURE recently named as a product designer to watch. Called Abstract, the installation pays tribute to the Norse Yggdrasil, a mythical tree that’s believed to be the predecessor to the Yuletide tree. Like most of Mills work, Abstract uses light to change perceptions. “Artists have been trying to capture light in their own manner for generations, through chiaroscuro, photography, or stained glass,” he said in an interview, “and this is my way of doing that.”
Upper House Hotel Tree by Yabu Pushelberg
Earlier this year, Toronto based interior design studio Yabu Pushelberg collaborated with the Czech glass company Lasvit on two major product lines: the Otto glassware collection and Cipher lighting. This month, the studio revisited both those projects with an illuminated tree installed in the lobby of the Hong Kong luxury hotel Upper House.
Its rhombus-shaped grid is made of LEDs and hand-blown crystal components mounted onto a champagne-hued brass frame. It all results in what the hotel calls a “bespoke Christmas tree,” which will be auctioned off post-holiday season, with proceeds going to The Society for AIDS Care.
Book Tree by Robarts Library
They may not be designers, but the folks at UofT’s Robarts Library made a tree that stands up to the other imitation pines on our list. According to their Instagram, the installation is made up of 300 books. The green doorstops are stacked copies of the National Union Catalogue. Before digitization, these massive directories were the only way to find print resources held at other libraries. The decorative red-coloured volumes are actually old indexes to the New York Times.
Remember: if you can’t abide fallen pine needles, you can always fake it.