TAMAN NEGARA – MALAYSIA

The Taman Negara tropical rainforest is a 4 hour drive North East of Kuala Lumpur and is regarded as the worlds oldest rainforest, at 130 million years old.

It doesn’t really require going to the oldest rainforest in the world, a relatively old forest would be sufficient to reach the same thoughts and ideas, but there was something about the shear age of the forest and its overwhelming scale that I found inspiring and thought provoking.

Even the oldest trees of the forest are saplings compared to the age of the entire forest. A mere passing moment, yet we perceive the trees/forest (and the city too as an architecturally relevant comparison) simultaneously as a mass of solid and static objects, seemingly eternal and unchangeable but at the same time also alive and ever shifting. A kind of perceptual doublethink to use Orwellian terminology,

Only in taking a step back does this contradiction disappear, when we imagine the forests behaviour sped up over a few thousand or million years, and in doing so, a totally new perception emerges; one where the growth of the trees and the forest is not imperceptibly small, and the movement, life and behaviour of the individual tree can be seen. Each plant and tree moving and behaving like animals in the ceaseless battle for canopy and ground space, where the landscape is constantly rolling between life and death, as trees grow and fall and floods sweep away the ground beneath them. Taken from this long view perspective, a perception finally arises of the forest as a singular dynamic organism comprised of many interdependent and competing individuals, creating together an intricate and unimaginably complex ecosystem.

Located within the national park is also the longest suspended forest canopy walk in the world, at 510m long. The canopy walk was an amazing way to experience the scale of the forest and the larger trees, which from the incredibly dense and almost claustrophobic ground, get lost in a sea of green overhead.

One of the most interesting parts of the canopy walk was the varying solutions to the problem of rigging the suspended walkways to the trees, without actually attaching to and harming them. Wooden blocks were extensively used to protect the trees from the steel cables that tightly wrapped around the trunks. This has resulted in the trees growing around the blocks and moving the entire structure upwards as they grow higher, leaving scar like marks on some of the trees when the structure has had to be moved back down again.
The ever shifting nature of the trees and the forest has required a solution fully capable of accommodating this constant natural change, whilst at the same time in no way hindering the same movement. A structure capable of fully adapting to the unpredictable forest movement over time, able to be endlessly adjusted as required. This requirement reflected in the fact that the whole rigging is checked and rechecked every morning before opening up to visitors.
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