The project

The Heron Tree, a crazy project !

This project, imagined by François Delarozière and Pierre Oréfice is the new challenge for both the Machines de l’Île and the company La Machine. What we share today is the adventure of it’s construction, up until its opening in 2023.

The Tree will be inhabited by a mechanical menagerie and crowned with two majestic Herons. Never before had the childhood dream of flying aback a giant bird come true. It will be possible to board the Herons for a slow circular flight at 40m above the ground…

The greatest urban tree on earth will take root in an extraordinary garden at the heart of the city in a quarry carved out in the black granite of the Sillon de Bretagne.

The Heron Tree_La Machine

The “Misery” quarry has been contributing, since the 16th century, to the construction of the city of Nantes (bridges, buildings and street paving), to mineralise it… Then from 1900 to 1985 the quarry was occupied by a big brewery. It was destroyed, step by step, between 1987 and 1995 before slowly becoming a wasteland overgrown by thermophilic plants. Several different buildings and hotels construction projects have been considered since… even a boulevard, but non came to fruition.

In 2016, Nantes’ new mayor, Johanna Rolland, following the wish to preserve and promote this remarkable space, proposed a change of direction in the “bas Chantenay rives de Loire” project by creating a new “extraordinary garden” and by placing the Herons’ Tree at the heart of this lush setting.

Located at the geographical and historical entrance of this big urban project, the quarry becomes the central piece of the metropolitan green star. Overlooked by a promenade with the most beautiful viewpoint on the Loire river, Trentemoult, the harbour and the emblematic grey crane; the “extraordinary garden” and the branches of the Herons’ Tree will become a green lung in this urbanised and industrial neighbourhood.

Together, the Garden and the Tree will magnify this granite arena. As a set, they will become a reference in how to demineralise and revegetate an urban area.

The Tree won’t be embedded on a big waterproof concrete slab but on micro-blocks inserted into the granite bedrock then covered by soil. It will provide beneficent shade to the garden at its foot, replacing the slab poured at the beginning of the 20th century. The whole area under the branches will have vegetation and new trees will grow through the lower branches thanks to favourable cultivation conditions.

Inside the Tree, you will explore the Hanging Gardens and you will enjoy the most beautiful view over the Nantes harbour and the banks of the Loire River. Hundreds of planters set up on the 3 different levels of branches in the hanging gardens will further bolster this ecosystem’s diversity. Vegetation at the foot of the Tree will be spread out into 4 different levels offering diverse settings and exposures.

This Tree will thus become a genuine green ark and a place of experimentation dedicated to green architecture.

Art within the city, accessible to all.

Just as the Great Elephant has all the attributes of that powerful mammal, this Tree in this extraordinary garden will be the custodian of the city’s biodiversity. It will overlook a place of  conviviality and it is a symbol of both deep-rootedness and elevation.

Sitting on a bench, watching the Tree and the Herons taking off, just like the Great Elephant this generosity is natural, this is a public space. The Machines de l’Île freely show their main attractions.

Near 5000 visitor every day (500 000 every year) will visit the Hanging gardens and fly with the Herons. The extraordinary gardens are open to all.

To share this project, one must be convinced that this work of art in the heart of a public area will have a strong impact on the city. Art in the city, made available to everyone is a driving force of Nantes’ development. But foremost, this Tree will put Nantes on the world map as well as strengthen its image as a creative city. Nantes has this legitimacy, the adventure of the Machines de l’Île, Nantes’ cultural drive and the Voyage à Nantes have largely contributed to it.

To complete this challenge, it needs to be shared.

From crowdfunding to the private sponsorship and partnership, its implementation requires all energies pool together alongside Nantes Métropole and local communities.

Four years of research and construction, that is the challenge that we must share today. It’s the most beautiful part of this adventure.

That was one of the reasons behind the Kickstarter campaign launch in 2018. We will write this story as it unfolds and share every chapter with our donors and all our sponsors employees.

In 2019, the inhabitants of Nantes discovered the first portion of the extraordinary garden of the Quarry, and from the belvederes atop the quarry they will be able to see the Tree being built.

Detailed presentation of the project by the authors.

The authors and the Machines de l’Île

The Compagnie La Machine builds this art-piece and orchestrates all contribution from skill sharing businesses.

Funding the Heron Tree and the Endowment Fund.

The Heron Tree will be funded by Nantes Métrople (1/3 of the budget), by other public pertners (1/3 of the budget) such as Région Pays de la Loire and by donations and sponsorship (for the last third of the budget).

The Heron Tree Endowment Fund was set up in November 2017 to collect individual donations and implement innovative partnerships that are yet to be devised for the businesses during the construction of this extraordinary project.