When you think of a spiritual gathering place or a church, what comes to mind? I typically think of some ancient and ornate cathedral, decorated with gargoyles, stained glass and incredible murals on the ceilings and walls. I think of a place lined with pews and surrounded by stone or concrete. I think of a grand marble altar and intricate decoration and design elements surrounding the structure. I went to church a lot when I was younger and it wasn’t the most thrilling place to be. This is most likely due to the age I was, but also because of the architectural design. Well after traveling the world and visiting churches, a man by the name of Barry Cox decided to create his own unique church and it is unbelievably beautiful. I may have been a little more distracted in a church like this as a kid but I would have looked forward to Sunday morning that’s for sure.
Barry Cox started a company called Treelocations out of New Zealand. His company utilizes a tree spade which is able to unearth growing trees and transplant them wherever anyone might want them. Using this massive digging machine, Brian began construction on this tree church in 2011.
Over the past 4 years, the trees have matured and grown into a covered canopy that is fully encloses the structure with raw nature. By placing trees in carefully planned out spots, Barry was able to create a full structure made entirely out of living trees. The church will continue to grow and enclose even more as the trees age.
Barry incorporated a giant iron frame that gives the trees direction in where to grow. This shapes the trees as they grow, forming a typical church structure that is actually far from ordinary.
The tree church grounds are also beautifully landscaped with lush gardens and topiary focal points everywhere. The tree church has become quite the attraction, hosting all kinds of events from birthdays to weddings.
As beautiful as this tree church is, it will only become more beautiful and grand as it ages. As the trees grow the structure will become more solid.
The tree church grounds have much more than just a church as well. They offer extensive gardens, a labyrinth walk, and large shaded canopies for gathering outside.
“I walked out my back door one day and thought, ‘That space needs a church’ – and so it began. I cleared the area in April 2011 and made the iron frame, drawing on all the research I had done over the years of studying churches. I wanted the roof and the walls to be distinctly different, to highlight the proportions, just like masonry churches,” says Barry Cox
Barry had to use specific species of trees for this tree church to work perfectly. They had to be flexible enough to train, yet strong enough to create a structure. If the canopy was too thick no light would be able to enter causing the grassy floor to die. The lack of light would also mean that the guests would be sitting in darkness. He wanted this tree church to be full of light.
The tree church comes with a lot of maintenance that Barry does himself. He has to trim the church walls every 6 weeks to keep them from over growing. “It takes me five hours to mow the lawns and at least three hours of final primping to get the gardens and Tree Church to the standard I need to be happy for an event,” says Barry.
Barry originally planned to keep the tree church for his own enjoyment, but after a lot of pressure from his family, friends and local garden clubs, he has opened it up to the public since January of this year.
Take a look at a short video of the Tree Church in New Zealand.
More info: TreeChurch
Barry’s tree church is a gathering place for everyone and is growing into an actual church. The tree cathedral in Italy is more of a work of art than a functioning church. The concept is brilliant and I hope to see more concepts like this one around the world. If you can form trees to grow how you want them to while keeping them thriving and living, the options are limitless. Just imagine some of the gardens that could be created over many years.