The Tree of Life: Amangiri and VERDI’s Dreamy Desert Installation

Colombian design studio VERDI puts their ethical production ethos into a sustainable luxury artwork at the iconic Utah retreat

VERDI founder Tomás Vera takes in the view.
VERDI founder Tomás Vera takes in the view.

By Janet Mercel on 1.05.22

The red rock wilderness of Amangiri is already a visual dreamscape, and anything that crosses the threshold of the meticulous resort is bound to be equally inspiring. The Tree of Life, an ethereal art installation by Colombian design studio, VERDI, is just such an addition to the terrain. 

VERDI’s studio is a home design, fashion and art crossbreed, where textiles, handbags and rugs are woven from unusual organics — repurposed metal threading, plantain and other raw, indigenous Colombian plant fibers. The tree at Canyon Rock, at about thirteen feet high and wide, a slightly smaller version of one that resides permanently at the showroom in Bogotá, is a feat of gorgeousness that took four months back home to build and hours to assemble by a team in the freezing mid-winter Utah desert. 

The tree's home at Amangiri faces uninterrupted views of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
The tree's home at Amangiri faces uninterrupted views of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Amangiri has been a touchstone of design perfection since opening in 2009, and with its 600 acres of mesa rock and private land to explore, the draw has only increased in the last few years. As admirers of Aman’s commitment to environmental integration and protection programming, it was “an absolute dream” for VERDI to have the property as a canvas for their installation, and to showcase their own practices. 

“The goal was to emphasize the way in which both our brands embrace local culture in a responsible, celebratory way, as well as the use of sustainable concepts and materials,” explains founder Tomás Vera. “That was the message. Creating something beautiful was the means to deliver it.”

The significance of the tree’s conception runs clear to its roots, as it were. Tomás traveled with his mother to Mexico in 2013 and there discovered the legend of the tree of life. (For an overwhelmingly cerebral refresher, watch Darren Aronofsky‘s epic 2006 film, The Fountain, complete with a hero conquistador played by Hugh Jackman and coincidentally named Tomás Verde, who travels to New Spain to take on Mayan truths in the 15th century.) The history stayed with Tomás (of VERDI) until he was able to physically produce it several years later. The Tree of Life installation stands as a circular reminder of ancestry, family legacy, a connection to the past, present and perhaps most importantly, the future. 

Copper thread base hand wrapped in the Colombian Guacamayas technique.
Copper thread base hand wrapped in the Colombian Guacamayas technique.
Raw and repurposed indigenous materials are a mainstay of VERDI's art and collections.
Raw and repurposed indigenous materials are a mainstay of VERDI's art and collections.

The entire installation represents the production methods behind the company’s collections — materials slow-processed by local craftspeople, sourced without deforestation, collected and dyed without compromising the earth or the workers, and repurposing textile and fiber waste and metal residues wherever possible. The skeleton of the tree is made of iron and fiberglass, with a trunk and copper base wrapped in a hand-woven artisanal technique called Guacamayas. The ‘foliage” is made from raw Fique, a plant fiber cultivated in the Colombian Andean region, and one of the main fibers used in VERDI’s line of rugs. 

“I’ve read a lot about what it really means to be luxurious or embrace luxury lately,” says Tomás. “A lot of it has to do with time, silence, and comfort, but more of it has to do with emotionality. We genuinely believe that exceptional, sustainable design and craft are today’s ultimate luxury. We show it in our work every day and we feel that Amangiri does too.”

If you’re not able to make it to Amangiri in the next couple of weeks, VERDI’s Tree of Life will be exhibiting in L.A. during Frieze Los Angeles week in February, at Bridge House, architect Dan Brun’s net zero residential property, along with other VERDI sculpture and artworks. 

Tomás freezes for the hours long installation process in the Utah winter desert.
Tomás freezes for the hours long installation process in the Utah winter desert.
Raw, untreated Fique plant fiber make up the tree's
Raw, untreated Fique plant fiber make up the tree's "foliage."
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