1. Train station built around a 700-year-old tree (Japan)
Neyagawa’a Kayashima Station, in northeastern Osaka, is one of the most unusual-looking train stations in all of Japan. Despite its elevated platform location, Kayashima has a giant, broccoli-like tree poking out through a rectangular hole in its roof.
The Big Kusu Tree of Kayashima, as the camphor tree is known, is older than most records, but officials estimate that it has been around for at least 700 years. In 1910, when Kayashima was opened, the tree stood right next to it, offering travelers much-needed shelter on both sunny and rainy days. It stayed that way for the next 60 years, but as Japan’s population increased, overcrowding became a problem. Authorities decided that the train station needed to be expanded—plans were approved in 1972, and the camphor was going to be cut down.
Those plans were scrapped, and Kayashima station was built around the camphor tree. By 1980, it was completed, and the tree was converted into a sort of a shrine. It stands surrounded by a fence of sacred plaques and “wears” a sacred Shimenawa rope strung with shime strips, which symbolizes the presence of a deity and wards off its curse.
2. Library built around a centenarian walnut tree (France)
A centenarian walnut tree forms the axis for this library in the French city of Bourg-la-Reine. The building, designed by Pascale Guédot, surrounds the old tree, which stands in the middle of a reading room.
On the ground floor, extensive glazing allows the interior space to meld with the outdoor area to the rear of the building—this is where the structure winds around the old walnut tree and becomes a courtyard-like reading area. Terraced wood patios and a stone bench invite visitors to stay a while.
3. A restaurant built around a 100-year-old fig tree (Brazil)
Figueira Rubaiyat in Sao Paulo is a restaurant built entirely around a 100-year-old fig tree that is nothing less than colossal in size. Brazil has a lot of big trees, but you wouldn’t expect to find one this size in the middle of a city. The establishment incorporated about a quarter of the tree inside the restaurant with the rest outside.
4. Glass house built around an entire tree (Kazakhstan)
When a client asked architect Aibek Almasov for a peaceful retreat in the mountains of Kazakhstan, he decided to create a new type of treehouse. Rather than sitting on the branches, the home he designed wraps around a pine tree.
The four-story, circular building is walled with glass for views of the surrounding woods. There is no privacy, but that’s less of a concern when squirrels are your only neighbors. Since the tree branches spread out to fill more space on the upper levels of the home, most of the actual living space is at the base of the building. The first floor is divided into a bathroom and kitchen, and a bed fits on the second level.
The house has yet to be constructed.
5. The school built around a historical tree (Japan)
Fuji Kindergarten, a school located in Tachikawa, Japan, was built in a ring around a Zelkova tree with a storied past. Children play on the glass, steel, and wood structure in the kindergarten’s yard.
The tree, which is about 50 years old, was nearly uprooted during a typhoon. Lifeless and gray, it came back to life against everyone’s expectations. Before the school was built in 2007, the tree was a popular place for kids to climb and hang out. Now, the surrounding buildings’ windows face the tree so the children inside can see it all the time. For recess, or when they’re waiting for their bus, the kids can play on the platforms around it. An adult would only see two floors of the structure, but lower levels give children places to explore where adults won’t fit.
6. The road built around an araucaria tree (Brazil)
The Araucaria is the state tree of Parana in southern Brazil. When a road was built in the city of Pato Branco, the tree was spared. So far, nobody has crashed into it—yet.
7. House built around several trees (Brazil)
To create a home that blends into the natural beauty surrounding it is a challenge in itself. But to build a home that incorporates nature—not just in its colors and textures, but in its greenery—is truly a feat. This residence in Brazil, built by architect Alessandro Sartore, manages to do just that by allowing trees that were already growing on the property to continue up and through the new structure. The results are certainly modern in design, but also unique and deeply personal.
8. Hillside house in Los Angeles built around a tree (US)
Anonymous Architects have designed this contemporary home in Los Angeles, where the goal was to preserve as many natural features as possible. One way the designers were able to do this was by incorporating one of the trees found on the property into the design of the home.
As the house is also on a steep slope, they cantilevered a section of it to protect the native flora and fauna in the yard. In one of the bedrooms, the tree pierces through the floor and ceiling, and out through the roof.