Daniel Bain loves exploring Barcelona, but one sight has left a lasting impression – a sturdy oak that pops up in the middle of a staircase. “I like to think that this tree sat down on these stairs to create a piece of shade for the future and stayed,” he says.
The architect, 57, was on holiday with his wife, Patricia, last September when he came across the tree in Parc de la Ciutadella. The couple from San Francisco had just been people-watching around the Cascada, an impressive fountain in the northern corner of the park, looking on as happy couples took their wedding photos. As they left, they were surprised to see the oak. “It’s growing out of the concrete,” says Bain. “It’s like walking up a staircase and having to walk around someone, and in this case that someone was a tree.”
It’s like walking up a staircase and having to walk around someone, and in this case that someone was a tree
Bain started to wonder which came first – the tree or the staircase. “Maybe it was there first and they built the stairs around it,” he ponders. Alternatively, “the tree found that crack and by the time someone discovered it, they thought they would let it grow. I love the story of how something like that could have happened.”
For the past few years, Bain has been taking pictures of what he calls “survivor trees” – ones that have cropped up in unusual places. He even spotted one inside a grain silo. “You think a tree is supposed to be in the ground in soil,” he says. “This oak is poking its way through and it’ll probably be there for ever now.”
He likes to think of how the oak will surprise and delight future visitors. “I was fortunate to pass beneath its shade last year, between separatist demonstrations and Covid shutdowns. Fortunately, this tree will outlast these trials and speak to other travellers in the decades to come, as long as a little rain and respect continue to grace its sitting spot.”
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