Our favorite tree is the endangered Metasequoia, also known as the dawn redwood. We have planted over 50 of these stately conifers in the last 20 years, and maybe as many as 100. A handful of those were street trees, which the Metasequoia is particularly well adapted to be.
Metasequoia: “meta” — like metamorphosis — means “to change”. Sequoia is derived from the eponymous Cherokee (1767–1843) inventor of the Cherokee syllabary, a set of written symbols resembling an alphabet.
In winter, the Metasquoia drops its needles. A deciduous conifer, it is like the bald cypress found in Louisiana and neighboring states. One could say it is truly paradoxical. Its existence was long speculated to be a missing evolutionary link between conifers and deciduous trees. Continue reading →
Most behavioral and mind scientists believe that we have all been trained (or conditioned or imprinted) at various times to react to certain visual stimuli, and that this can affect our thinking and behaviors. There is discussion as to when this occurs—some propose a sensitive time up to teenage years; others postulate infancy; others think some of this happens at birth, or that we may even be genetically programmed to respond to certain visual stimuli.
Ethologists1 have pursued this concept far more seriously than psychologists. The ethologist Konrad Lorenz, a Nobel Prize winner and considered one of the founders of that field of study, designed an experiment where baby greylag geese saw his face first after hatching; consequently they followed him around instead of their mothers.
A case can be made for imprinting in terms of human responses to the built environment. Anthropologists have shown that in some Mediterranean and equatorial countries where almost all roofs are flat, children, when asked to draw a picture of home as they imagine it, will draw a crude gabled roof structure, even though they may have seen very few if any in their lives. We would like to explore a few deeply ingrained ways in which we see buildings, and how part of that reaction to the three dimensional world we build around us might be innate.
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