A treetop office in East London’s Hoxton Square park has more in mind than upping worker productivity by exposure to natural light and flora—it’s a political proponent for the rights of nature. Artist, engineer, and New York University professor Natalie Jeremijenko designed the lightweight structure together with artists Shuster + Mosely and architects Tate Harmer. The coworking space can accommodate six to eight occupants simultaneously and is outfitted with Wifi and a power supply.
“As a place to work, I can’t think of a better office. It’s a beautiful, airy, delicious space in amongst the chaos of public space,” Jeremijenko told Fast Company. However, the concept’s cherry on top is the tree-as-landlord business model in that tenant’s rents are reinvested into the maintenance of the park, the greening of the surrounding area and upkeep of the tree itself.
The dollar value of a tree can be computed by quantifying its environmental “services.” These include improving air quality, sequestering carbon, and conserving energy use in buildings by providing shade. In New York City, the monetary virtues of a tree are a measly $400 for 80 years of service, but Jeremijenko believes in the message her project implicitly asserts.
“By making it specifically about the tree and what kind of revenue the tree can generate, we’re really exploring a larger political discussion of what are the rights of nature,” she said.
Jeremijenko erected a similar contraption in Berlin and one in Socrates Square Park, Long Island City, as part of the Civic Action exhibition in 2012. In a statement on the Civic Action website, Jeremijenko exhorted readers to consider her rhetoric: if the 14th amendment grants personhood to corporations, why shouldn’t trees be extended the same legal entitlement? “If non-human organisms own property, will that change their explicit value in a market-based participatory democracy?” she wrote.
TREExOFFICE was launched during the 2 Degrees Festival from 1–7 June where Jeremijenko was the official artist-in-residence, but the outdoor office space is available for rent until December 2015. Use of the arboreal office can be booked online, while local community groups can reserve it free of charge on weekends. Renting a desk for a half day weekday costs $23, while the entire space costs $120.