A Closer Look: Trees in the Central Courtyard

An Indian laburnum tree, also known as a yellow shower tree, grows in the central courtyard at Shangri La. It is a robust whimsical tree that harmonizes with the largely Persian aesthetic of the space. Its branches twist together in a delicate embrace and its canopy has filled the courtyard’s open roof, following the lines of the house. When a wind rustles through, spots of light flicker above as leaves and petals float gently down to the base of the tree. And, if you look closely, you’ll notice that the tree is not one, but two — two trees melded almost seamlessly together.

These images are for use by Lindemann Construction only for Portfolio, web site, and award submission purposes. Third party and additional rights are restricted without permission. All images are (C)2005, David Franzen [#Beginning of Shooting Data Section] Nikon D2X Focal Length: 16mm Optimize Image: Color Mode: Mode II (Adobe RGB) Noise Reduction: OFF 2006/01/13 14:50:15.0 Exposure Mode: Manual White Balance: Direct sunlight Tone Comp: Less Contrast RAW (12-bit) Lossless Metering Mode: Multi-Pattern AF Mode: AF-S Hue Adjustment: 0° Image Size: 2868 x 4320 1/15 sec - F/11 Flash Sync Mode: Not Attached Saturation: Normal Exposure Comp.: 0 EV Sharpening: Normal Lens: 12-24mm F/4 G Sensitivity: ISO 200 Image Comment: [#End of Shooting Data Section]
Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2006.)
Planted between the 1940s and 1970s, the two trees mirror two other — less visible — trees in the courtyard. Looking closely at the row of seventeenth-century Persian tile panels on the eastern wall, you will notice several intertwined turquoise and brown trees, such as the ones seen on the panel (48.98.1) below:

Tree tile
Tile panel (48.98.1). Iran (Isfahan), 17th century. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai’i. (Photo: Paige Donnelly, 2016.)

The motif of intertwined trees may bring to mind the mystical dimension of Islam. In Sufi poetry, the bond between the Lover and the Beloved is used as a metaphor for the bond between the faithful and God. Likewise, in art, symbols such as intertwined trees can serve as visual expressions of devotion to divine love.

Even from first glace, the synergy of trees in the central courtyard — in art and in nature —  has a powerful effect. This mirroring of 400-year-old tiles with two living Indian laburnum trees is rooted in the unconventional and beautiful symmetry of the house as a whole.

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Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i. (Photo: David Franzen, 1999.)

Each morning, as I make my way through the central courtyard, my eyes always linger on the branches spiraling up before me. I see not two trees, but one.