Technical Research Competition: Getting to the Root of the Problem


Street trees are an invaluable, but often under-appreciated asset to the public realm. Their many advantages include climate modification on both a local and city scale, hosts to ecological diversity, absorption of run off, and providing a continuity to the urban fabric in terms of scale and proportion. Most of the time their presence goes unremarked and it is only when, as living organisms, they interfere with human activity that they get noticed, often with negative consequences.

The major problems associated with established street trees are uplift of paving, kerbs and adjacent private boundary walls by tree roots and the blocking of footways through the space taken by the trunk volume. Other problems include damage to cars through epicormic growth, blocking of daylight, blocking of drains after leaf fall, skidding on wet leaves in autumn, aphid drip and the noise made by nesting birds. Many of these problems occur in suburban streets, where trees have reached maturity and are unable to adapt to contemporary urban expectations. Mature street trees, which are often the most valuable ecologically and environmentally, are also those most closely associated with these problems, which are exacerbated by the fragmentation and proliferation of underground services, mainly located below the city’s pavements.


This is an innovative format “Research Competition” for MLA1 students, supported by “City of Trees” and organised by the MSA. City of Trees are a charity, whose objective is to restore 20,000 hectares of underused, unloved woodland within the city and plant 3 million trees - one for every man, woman and child that lives in Greater Manchester - within a generation.

The competition is in two parts.

Part A: A photographic survey and index of damage or nuisance caused by street trees to the public realm and adjacent land in private ownership.

Part B: A collaborative ideas workshop to develop potential solutions to address the problems of damage to surrounding infrastructure that street trees have created.

Competition entries will be judged by a group of professionals and prizes will be donated by the sponsors of the RE:ALM blog: JA Jones, Hardscape, Ground Control, GreenBlue Urban. There will be two separate prizes awarded, one for each part.

Brief Part A: Survey of Damage

Students will work in groups to carry out a site survey of an allocated area (refer to plan), photographing any incidents of damage and nuisance caused by street trees, both to the public realm or to adjacent private land/boundaries, etc.

Groups must identify and name each tree photographed, estimate its age, height, girth, spread and health, and collect any other useful information relevant to the cause, extent and type of damage, and future changes to the surroundings as a result of the damage. This should include measurements of pavement widths, distance of trees from kerbs and walls, height and construction of adjacent boundary walls, evidence of cars parking on kerbs, location of nearby utilities covers, etc.

As a single year group you will carry out extensive desk-top research into each tree species identified in the three study areas, to develop a comprehensive data bank of information. This will be shared amongst each group.

Part B: Ideas Workshop

In groups of two and three you will develop innovative and radical ideas that will address one or more of the problems caused by street trees to their public/private surroundings that you have identified within your survey area. Groups will be given support and advice on the day by MLA staff and external tutors.


Survey of Damage Each group will produce an A4 digital report which contains all relevant information from the group survey, desk top research and work compiled by the year on individual tree species. Particular attention should be paid to the method and quality of presentation and communication of information. A paper copy should be made available at the time of presentation

Ideas Workshop As this is a one day workshop, the method of presentation should initially reflect the development and selection of ideas through a dynamic and expressive drawing-thinking process.

The development of potential solutions to your selected tree damage/nuisance should then be worked out as a resolved technical detail, either hand drawn or digital, that clearly explains your process, method and conclusions.


Friday, March 23rd, Competition Launch

Wednesday, April 25th, 9.30-4.30pm One Day Workshop

Friday, April 27th, Presentation and Judging. Presentation of prizes


Survey: March 23rd-April 24th

Site A: Anthony Lynch, Mohammed Saad Sait, Beth Houston, Claire Nixon

Site B: M Jeerawat Chutiwhattanathada, Patrick Cooper, Ollie Kingshott, Jenifer Rainford-Mendez

Site C: Matthew Peilow, Rani Sasindran, Max Cooper, Jack Qiang Li, Emma Yi-Hsien Kao

Ideas Workshop: April 25th

Mohammed Saad Sait, Beth Houston

Claire Nixon, Anthony Lynch (remotely)

M Jeerawat Chutiwhattanathada, Patrick Cooper

Ollie Kingshott, Jenifer Rainford Mendez

Jack Qiang Li, Matthew Peilow, Emma Yi-Hsien Kao

Rani Sasindran, Max Cooper


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