Hood Design Studio

Artist, designer, and educator Walter J. Hood founded Hood Design Studio in Oakland, California, in 1992. Believing that everyone needs beauty in their lives, Hood makes use of everyday objects for landscape design and public sculpture that generate new apertures through which to see the emergent beauty, strangeness, and idiosyncrasies of urban space. His firm’s nationally recognized projects include the de Young Museum gardens in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park; the Broad Museum Plaza, Los Angeles; and the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York. The studio has received numerous honors, including the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Award for Collaborative Achievement and the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Landscape Design. In addition to serving as creative director of his eponymous firm, Hood is professor of landscape architecture, environmental planning, and urban design at the University of California, Berkeley.
Courtesy of Hood Design Studio

New Witness Tress

Trees that remain in place decades or even centuries after noteworthy events are referred to as witness trees. Many were young when the events took place and have grown to be large, silent sentinels of history. In the early 1800s, surveyors in Illinois planted “bearing trees” as landmarks to grid the ground. After centuries of development, many are still around today and are documented in the Witness Tree Project. This project is a collaboration between The Morton Arboretum, The Field Museum, University of Notre Dame and the PalEON Project, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The 2021 Biennial has established new Witness Trees that record this year’s events—events that have shaped this epoch: a time of pandemic, racial reckoning, police brutality and reform, and climate crisis.

The new Witness Trees installation is inspired by the state's orthogonal grid. Tree grids are scaled to the site; at the corner of East 53rd and South Prairie Avenue, a grid is painted on the lawn at ten-foot intervals. A grid of sixteen Bald Cypress trees sit at the site's center. Fences project the grid into the third dimension and record the cast shadows of trees. Through the planting of southern trees in northern land, new Witness Trees invokes the history of the Great Migration and establishes a spirit grove to keep the neighborhood safe. Reminiscent of the southern tradition of bottle trees, visitors are asked to record a sentiment or message of witness onto a reflective foil that is then tied to the tree branches. As fall gives way to winter, the grove glistens with light and reflection. Once spring returns, the witness trees will find a new home with residents of the South Side, where they will witness a new history.

Past Works

Three Trees: Jackson, Obama, Washington, 2019