Stairway to Heaven: Kew Tree Top Walkway

Kew Gardens, properly known as the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is a 300 acre garden, a World Heritage Site and the (newly voted) best public garden in Britain. With 1.4 million visitors a year, they have to keep introducing new attractions as well as maintain their reputation as a national centre for botanical research and training. The Gardens hold examples of three quarters of the country's endangered plant species as well as being a stunning place to wander.

The newest development is the Rhizotron and Xstrata Tree Top Walkway, an ethereal "bridge" that lets you meander, literally, through the tree tops. It is 59 feet high and a winding 220 yards long and floats over fifty mature trees, butterfly sanctuaries and around random birds such as tawny owls, woodpeckers, kestrels and parakeets (we saw a green one). Not to mention mosses and lichen, insects and bats at dusk.

The visitor centre at the beginning of the bridge leads the visitor under ground where there is interesting botanical information. Then one walks up and out so that you enter the bridge almost from below the earth.

Designed by Marks Barfield Architects, creators of the London Eye, it was a delicate construction job. Firstly, they had to carefully position the pylons so that they did not damage the trees' root system. This was done by radar survey so that they could strategically position the 12-18m long concrete piles between the major roots. The structure was mainly constructed off-site and put into place with the assistance of Kew's tree specialists.

The design is based on the Fibonacci sequence, which underlies many growth patterns in nature. The project architect explains "by using the progressive series of numbers associated with the sequence (1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34, etc), Marks Barfield were able to work with structural engineers to create a 'Fibonacci grid' along a typical walkway truss". Truly a spectacular addition to the wonders of Kew Gardens, it is made out of Weathering Steel, a high-strength steel that rusts over time, and has a natural, untouched look to it as it ages. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
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Tags: Architecture

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