Tree Museum

Having met in Art Basel 2004, landscape architect Enzo Enea and international “green” architect Chad Oppenheim have a strong history of design exchange that began with the redesign of Simpson Park, a natural hardwood hammock in Downtown Miami that was reintroduced to the local community through the synergy of nature and architecture. Some years later, fate called for the two design forces to come together once again when Oppenheim won a competition for the opportunity to design Enea’s headquarters in Rapperswil-Jona, Switzerland, which would also be the home of the  world’s first tree museum. Competing against architects worldwide, it was the humble poetry of Oppenheim’s work that got him the prize. “It is often the desire of our architecture to establish and accentuate gardens and surrounding vistas that heighten the appreciation of nature – so it was quite natural for us to make Enea’s gardens the star of the show. We are always working towards creating the space for the beauty of the natural world to take center stage,” said Chad Oppenheim. Open to the public on June 14, The Tree Museum is comprised of unique spaces combining man-made and natural landscape, housing more than 2,000 trees, with a special installation of about 50 personally curated by Enzo from around the world. Oppenheim provided a flexible platform for the celebrated currently in the planning process for the construction of a mixed-use urban center in the port city of Tianjin, China.

Although Switzerland has no need for a non-national architect, the country has welcomed the first international office of Miami-based ‘green’ architect Chad Oppenheim in Basel. Known for his use of “Tropical Modernism” in Miami, Oppenheim has made his debut in Rapperswil-Jona with the Enzo Enea Headquarters that houses the world’s first tree museum. Nurturing the synergy between nature and architecture is a key aim of Oppenheim Architecture + Design (OAD) and is what facilitated the partnership of Oppenheim and Swiss landscape architect Enzo Enea. The two previously collaborated in the renovation of the entrance to Simpson Park in Miami—a “hardwood hammock” naturally surviving ecosystem. So when it came to Enea choosing a designer for his headquarters, it was only natural that Oppenheim was able to realize the vision for a sustainable building that plays as both the foreground and background to the surrounding nature and species of trees being honored. Drawing upon Enea’s industry and passion for collecting trees, OAD provided a flexible platform for the celebrated garden spaces of the complex, on the grounds of a 14th Century monastery. The tree museum is comprised of unique spaces combining man-made and natural landscape, housing more than 2,000 trees, with a special installation of about 50 personally curated by Enea from around the world. Oppenheim’s connection to Switzerland goes far beyond his relationship with Enea and his design for the Enea headquarters. Not only is his wife Ilona—daughter of the founder of La Prairie Cosmetics—from Switzerland, but the director for his European office, Basel-based architect Beat Huesler, is a fellow Cornell University alumnus. Oppenheim reconnected with Huesler while working on the Enea headquarters and with OAD working on several new projects abroad, Oppenheim decided to establish his office in Basel, with Huesler as its Director.
published in 2A Magazine Issue 14
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