Tree Henge

Tree Henge


Vincent Heijnen / University Of Auckland

12. Student design award

Brief: Utilising the existing seven metre diameter, circular concrete base, create a multi-use public pavilion for the visitors to Summerhill Timber Farm.


During the conceptual stage of this project, I was fascinated by the process of creating what I call a ‘Visual Memory’ through architecture. The idea that someone can paint something on the wood, look later and have a unique emotional response in relation to their current situation as well as the visual preservation. In conjunction with this, a third party may also observe the same creation at a completely different time and have their own unique emotional response.

For my Tree Henge project, I decided to explore this idea by creating a round, ‘log mural’ structure, placing vertically cut, fallen cypress trees around the existing circular stone base. The logs will be laid out on the site with an invitation sent out to parties such as the local school children, mountain biking club, the Ko Matua, local artists and visitors to contribute visual memories and art incorporating local Maori history, important events at Summerhill Farm, Homage to David and Cloie and the past structure (Mongolian Ger) as well as anything important to the carvers and creatives at the time.

Once erected, these towering murals will create a gathering space for honouring memories, the act of reminiscing and emotions that are special to the occupants of the site and will be preserved and developed over time.


Utilising the cypress timber grown on site was key to both the project's practical success as well as achieving its soul. Summerhill being both the supplier-manufacturer as well as the client removes the middlemen, allowing for the cheap and specific design of the murals and structural elements, taking fallen trees and the flexibility in the design. Cypress was chosen for this project as the key material for its longevity and its easy grey colour once exposed to the elements.

Despite the importance of practicality, the real value of the primary material of this project is how it carries its soul. The towering log murals are carved into by hand by skilled craftsmen and artists, Maori traditional craftsmen, as well as in classes taught on the site for the public, featuring multiple categories of importance to the occupants, creating a strong emotional bond with the structure. Cypress timber, combined with the motif ‘pioneer red’ unlocks the capability for this narrative to take place through its three-dimensional malleability and unique colour combination utilising the deep pioneer red, greyed exposed timber in conjunction with the live edge exterior. The rawness of taking the trees from the same site and preserving a substantial portion of their rough and natural characteristics creates a wholeness within the design.