A peculiar phenomenon of the Northern Italian city of Merano is its large population of palm trees. The majority of the Merano palm trees belong to the species Trachycarpus Fortunei, which was brought to Europe from East Asia in the 1830s. The first palms were planted in the city around 1880 when Merano was being transformed into a health resort and a tourist destination. With her artist’s book ‘Palm Tree Studies in South Tyrol and Beyond’, Nanna Debois Buhl seeks to trace the palm trees’ botanical trajectories and symbolic dimensions. The publication presents Buhl’s research through a collection of materials including conversations with the Merano-based botanist Otto Huber, the design scholar specialised in wallpaper Joanna Banham, and the architect Susanne Stacher, specialised in alpine architecture, as well as photos and photograms by the artist, old postcards and tourist posters of Merano, as well as historical and scientific images of palm trees. Through this multifaceted material, the publication offers a cultural biography of the palm tree in Merano and elaborates on the incorporation of this exotic element in 19th-century design and garden culture in the region and on a larger scale, also creating a link to utopian alpine architecture and its relation to the landscape. Published on the occasion of the public art exhibition Art & Nature 2016 Walking With Senses, Merano Spring Festival, Merano, Italy, 24 March – 5 June 2016. Curated by BAU.
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