One of the most extraordinary capacities we have as humans is the ability to make, build, and craft things with our own hands.
There’s no more satisfying feeling or more profound recognition we have for ourselves than when we complete a project. To have successfully created an end product by following a DIY manual — that’s one of the greatest things anyone can accomplish.
There is one man who has recently stood out with his creation. He was determined to build something beautiful and entirely novel, using materials from the most majestic source known to mankind: Mother Nature.
With no architectural background (but an astounding breadth of knowledge on the subject and its history), he endeavored to build — or, rather, grow — a masterpiece of a structure. Read on to find out what exactly it is he built, and to discover his passion for design and construction.
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Barry Cox had always been fascinated by churches. His childhood dream was to become the Pope. He settled instead for a position as an altar boy at the church in his hometown of Shannon, Harrowhenua, in New Zealand.
His reverence and appreciation for churches led him to become a world traveler. He’s roamed across the American and European continents and his native New Zealand on his motorbike, carefully studying churches and their properties: heights, angles, proportions, porticoes, and roofs.
His love for church architecture made him want to design one of his own. That’s when he decided to put a twist to the plan: he would build it right on a 1.2ha property in Cambridge, a town in the Waikato region, and make it out of trees.
The location he chose had the perfect combination of an ideal climate and soil makeup for growing the trees. He cleared the area and began constructing the iron frame, and modeled it after masonry churches, whose roofs and walls have distinct proportions.
Cox decided to utilize more than 4,000 trees for this grand project. He planted them on his dairy farm. He used his Treelocations business (which moves whole living trees, including their giant roots) to relocate saplings onto the property.
Cut-leaved Alder was planted for the roof, because it is relatively more flexible and sparse. This “sparseness” of the species would allow for sunlight to reach the inside of the church. Copper Sheen trees were chosen for the walls, since they are sturdier and have a color that naturally resembles that of stone. To keep this lush, textured growth in check, Cox has to trim the trees every 6 weeks. In the future, the main branches that grow from the Alder will fully compose the frame of the church.
Rambling rose vines weave their way to the top of the structure, and start blooming around October. The structure is also bordered all around by a dense hedging plant that requires little upkeep. At the entrance stands a pair of iron gates that used to be on his family farm. Inside, the altar was originally from his family church in Shannon, and is made out of marble from Lake Como, Italy, his ancestral home.
When he started out, Cox chose to grow out already semi-mature trees, which helped accelerate the landscaping process. Throughout the project, Cox’s affection for the natural growth of trees and their versatility has only deepened.
The Tree Church officially opened to the public in January of this year. This wasn’t Cox’s original plan, but after his nephew expressed an interest in holding his wedding ceremony at the church, Cox finally opened it up for the rest of the world to see and experience.
This Tree Church is truly the first of its kind. There have been cathedrals found in Italy and the U.K. that were made by setting trees close together, but none are as intricate as this one. In addition to couples wanting to hold their weddings at the church, local garden clubs and gardeners have also expressed fascination at the creativity that went into the building of this church.
He’s occupied by the maintenance the grounds require, however. To prepare the church and its surrounding area for an event, it takes him 5 hours to mow the lawns and 3 hours of trimming to get the gardens in tiptop shape.
Cox’s upcoming plans will be no small feat: in addition to the church, and current vegetable plot, bog gardens, and flower patch, he’s hoping to finish landscaping the European garden behind the church. He also wants to build a natural amphitheater for the summer months.
Please SHARE if you thought this “natural” church was a fascinating creation.