Cover The Sandi Tree is West Palm Beach, USA. Image: iStock

No Yuletide season complete is without a Christmas tree but while classic trees are evergreen, trees which depart from the norm often make a more lasting impression. Whether it's an imaginative take or a statement making assemblage, here are eight trees which have lingered in our memory

1. Mandarin Oriental Jumeira Christmas Tree, Dubai

Designed by the late Kenzo Takada, founder of his eponymous fashion brand and the creator of Jungle Jap, Takada made sure the Mandarin Oriental Jumeira's first Christmas celebration in 2019 was a glittering one with a modernist yet glamorous take on the Christmas tree.

Taking the golden colour traditionally associated with Christmas ornaments, the designer supersized it to cover the entire tree. Trapeze-shaped volumes were stacked to evoke the tree's classic pyramid shape while their reflective surfaces mirror the beachfront surroundings of Dubai's Mandarin Oriental Jumeira hotel.

2. White House Christmas

Always one to march to the beat of her drum (however polarising they may be), former US first lady Melania Trump unveiled the White House's annual Christmas decorations to a social media storm towards the end of her husband's presidential term.

Comprising 40 towering, crimson topiary-like trees lining the East Wing hallway toward the East Garden Room, the red was supposed to represent the stripes found on the presidential seal signifying valour and bravery. However, public opinion found the trees more frightening than festive with horror memes abounding swiftly after the images were released.

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3. Victoria & Albert Museum Christmas Tree, London

Stage designer for U2, Kanye West and Beyonce, Es Devlin was commissioned by the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2018 to create their annual tree and hers took the form of a cloud of floating words, contributed by the museum’s visitors. The unique "tree" featured digital word projections that create a poem and was accompanied by a layered polyphonic soundscape of human and machine generated voices,


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Above Image: V&A Museum

Two weeks prior to the installation, visitors were each invited to contribute a festive word and these were combined and processed through text and sound algorithms to create this polyphonic poem sculpture.

This tree would serve as the first iteration of the United Kingdom's Pavilion of Dubai Expo 2020 featuring the same concept.

4. Sand Christmas Tree, West Palm Beach, Florida

Every year, the city of West Palm Beach embraces its tropical setting by constructing a 35-foot tree made entirely of sand. Since debuting in 2012, the world’s only 700-ton Christmas tree is constructed from sand trucked over from a Miami quarry.

Known colloquially as Sandi Tree, it has a different theme every year but is always meticulously constructed by hand. The process involves pounding sand with water into plywood forms using a tamping machine, then removing the forms as the sculpture emerges from top to bottom. The lighting of the finished "tree" is then held in early December.

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5. Tree of Glass, London

Renowned lighting design, Lee Broom collaborated with glassware brand Nude to create a 10-metre-tall Christmas tree made of 245 individual hand-blown glass pendant lights inside The Shard in London in 2019. Named The Tree of Glass, the installation was inspired by its setting, a soaring triple-storey atrium of the Aqua Shard restaurant on the 31st floor of the Renzo Piano-designed skyscraper.

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Above Image courtesy of Nude

Recognising that The Shard's views of the London skyline are its main attraction, Broom was mindful that the size and impact of the glass structure shouldn't obscure the windows.

To this end, two of the four facets of the glass pendants are reeded vertically to allow for refraction with the LED light while the remaining two are left plain to allow visitors to catch glimpses of the view through the installation.


6. Albero di Natale, Gubbio, Italy

Known as the world's largest Christmas tree since it was launched in 1981, a tree of coloured lights is realised in Gubbio, Italy, every year on the slopes of Monte Ingino. With a base of 450m and a height of 750m, the "roots" of this massive installation sink into the walls of the village while the star is at the top where the Basilica of Sant’Ubaldo, patron saint of Gubbio, is located.

Traditionally, the lighting of the Tree takes place every year on December 7 at 6,30 pm from Piazza Gramsci where an important guest is invited to turn on the lights. Previous luminaries include Pope Benedict XVI in 2011 and Pope Francis in 2014.

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7. Claridge's Christmas Tree, London

Every year, Claridge's enlists one of the fashion industry's biggest names to design its Christmas Tree and while the festive centrepiece has been nothing short of stunning thus far, the late Karl Lagerfeld's version in 2017 could be the luxury's hotel's most unique. Inspired by his own childhood, the designer festooned the lobby with inverted trees and a 16-foot tree as its focal point.


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Above Image: Claridge's

The mesmerising tree was adorned with silver lametta decorations, silver butter leather feathers and snowflakes handmade by craftsmen in Germany with Icelandic sheepskin rugs placed underneath it to represent snowfall.

8. Traffic Light Tree, London

Designed by French sculptor Pierre Vivant in 1998, the eight-metre-tall stoplight was originally installed on a roundabout in Millwall. Comprising of 75 sets if lights, its changing patterns are meant to reflect the “never-ending rhythm of the surrounding domestic, financial and commercial activities.”

The artist's initial idea was to make the London Stock Exchange’s activities trigger the lights but this was scrapped due to cost issues. While Traffic Light Tree is a sculpture, this still confused drivers who voted the "tree" as being one of the worst roundabouts in the country. The sculpture was relocated to Billingsgate Market in 2014 and still lights up year round.


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