Talk Tree To Me

Urban Design

Detroit Month of Design
Detroit, Michigan
Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter

Talk Tree To Me was an interactive design project installed for the Month of Design—a month-long design festival in Detroit. The project was a collaboration by Spackman Mossop Michaels (SMM) and its partners Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. The project was part urban eco-scavenger hunt and part interactive exhibit. Residents could explore the Detroit Riverfront throughout the month and interact via text message with a collection of 12 different species of trees that had been programed with the real-life thoughts and questions of local Detroiters. The exhibit was live during the entire month of September 2020.

Talk Tree To Me aims to facilitate a conversation about trees, using trees themselves as the vehicle of conversation. Trees are important to a city. But there are lots of mixed feelings about trees in Detroit. Beyond the tangible issues around urban ecosystem health, economic benefits, and resiliency, trees are tied to larger cultural narratives about identity, race, wealth, and justice. With this project, SMM seeks to engage the community in this messy conversation, and tie it to place, memory, and the potential for transformation.

The goal of the project is to open a space for conversation about the community’s attitude towards urban trees and at the same time bring people in close contact with the trees in their city. The project pairs a Detroiter with a tree, as the voice of the tree—asking the questions and setting the topics the trees will discuss with the public. At the end of the month, selected conversations between the public and the trees will be posted on the website, revealing some of the unfiltered thoughts Detroiters have about trees and their role in people’s lives.

More information and selected conversations can be found at


  • 2022 National ASLA National Honor Award for Communications
  • Featured in Landscape Architecture Magazine, December 2020

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