Ethical and aesthetic dilemmas in the renewal of historic allees and avenues

There are various forms and types of historic avenues, from imposing
structural elements of historic gardens and parks, to individual rows of trees
in open landscapes creating grandiose vistas or axes, to the trees that line
the streets and boulevards of the urban fabric. All these types share a long
history that gives significant added value: while authenticity is a value in
itself, these compositions are also living witnesses of bygone times. 

 The essential maintenance and care of historic avenues require
specialised knowledge and expertise. But the time inevitably comes when
decisions need to be made regarding renewal or reconstruction, raising
questions about planting methods and technical issues, as well as ethical and
aesthetic questions, depending on whether the avenue still contains ancient,
living specimens or whether it has been entirely destroyed and the need and
possibility for renewal has emerged after years of neglect. 
 The fundamental aesthetic
requirement is to preserve the homogeneity of the avenue: the beauty of
individual trees is far less important than its overall harmony. There is also
the ethical dilemma as to whether gaps or empty sections should be filled with
young trees or whether the entire avenue should be renewed at the cost of
felling living, ancient specimens. 
 Changing environmental
conditions, especially in an urban context, may raise further landscape ethical
issues. Is it worth reconstructing a historic avenue using individual trees of
the same species if they are unable to adapt to the altered conditions? Should
we insist on a given species due to its historical or landscape value? How
should an avenue be renewed, perhaps even using the progeny of the original
specimens, in such a way as to preserve its homogeneous appearance without
cutting ancient individual trees? Is it possible to reconstruct historic
avenues while satisfying both the aesthetic requirement of homogeneity and the
ethical considerations of identity and authenticity? 

 This lecture will
attempt to answer these questions using the examples of three important
valuable Hungarian avenues: the lime-tree avenue in Nagycenk; the horse
chestnut avenue in Gödöll?; and the renew of the former sycamore avenue along Budapest?s Andrássy Street.
  • Title Original : Etikai és esztétiaki dillemmák történeti fasorok és sétányok megújításánál
  • Website : http://
  • Project start : 2010
  • Project end : 2011
  • Contact Person : Kinga Szilágyi
  • Funding Agency : TÁMOP-4.2.1/B-09/1/KMR-2010-0005 , EU Fund
  • Project Partners : Kinga Szilágyi, Imre Jámbor
  • Project structure :


    possibilities and methods of renewal of historicallees with a special stress on the question of authenticity, the ethical commitment and preservation oftheiraesthetic values.

    Methods for renewal of historicallees and avenues

    ?Total replacement (change of tree genus ? generally owing to environmental necessities) 
     ?Authentic renewal with fullreplantation, original species and planting space system ?Authentic renewal with a step by step replacement, either discrete or sectional 
     ?Authentic, geneticallyidentical renewal with vegetative propagation of the original tree stock ? preservation of historic gene heritage

    In the case of solitary trees or groups of trees, individual replacement in a historic garden or landscape does not usually take place all at once, thus the garden?s originally planned spatial forms and crown level can be almost steadily preserved. The situation is very different withallees and avenues owing to their architectural linearity. The homogeneous appearance and rhythm ofallees is an essential requirement even in landscape gardens. The renewal and the most suitable method have to be planned thoroughly taking the landscape, environmental, ecological, economical, cultural, aesthetic and also ethical aspects into consideration. The mode of renewal may be supplemental, partial, or comprehensive, or may take the form of total reformation that involves a change of tree species. The question of authenticity should play an important role in case of historicallees of high value. Fullrenewalinonestep:Herrenhausen,originatedin 1726, a 2kmslong2*2allees of limetree,renewedin 1972-74with 1300trees. TotalreplacementinBlenheim,woodstock,the mainalletotheMemorial Authenticfullrenewalwiththepreservation oftheoriginalgene bank

    The change of environmental conditions in the urban landscape generally is followed by a dramatic decay in the health conditions of urban vegetation. The total replacement of an urban avenue likeAndrássy avenue was planned due to changes and the deterioration of the urban environment. It was no longer possible to preserve the original species, the plane trees that used to be well adaptable in the 19th century. The concept of a grandiose avenue leading from the densely built-up city of Pest to the first urban park, the City grove, was a much-beloved idea of the city?s urban development council from the 1830s, but it was only possible to construct it after the Compromise of 1867 that resulted in Hungary becoming the second ruling power of the Habsburg Empire. The 2 km long avenue was built and planted in the 1870?s. The original layout of the avenue took into consideration the environmental needs of the trees, both in the width of its cross sections, and in its natural, wood block pavement ? which was appropriate for horseback riding and coaches as well.

    The reality of planting plane trees could only be questioned in the case of the inner section, where the heights of the buildings restricted the amount of natural light. Therefore the growth and the condition of the plane trees seemed somewhat problematic. When the avenue had to be replanted after the I. World War, the decision was to change the street trees of the avenue to hackberry trees.

    The Andrássy avenue used to be an important and beloved urban development. When the construction of the Millennium tube was started in the 1890?s for the Millennium Exhibition in 1896, the protection of trees was thoroughly planned for, and at least 4 meters were left intact along the rows. Unfortunately the avenue had to be replanted after the I. World War, as the original tree stock had to be utilised by the residents as timber for heating.

    The new plantation was the same plane tree in the second and third section, but of course the third section with its brightness and spaciousness offered much more better living conditions for the plane trees.

    The present state of the inner section proved the necessity of the change from plane tree to hackberry. In the meantime theAndrássy avenue was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site owing to its grandiose architectural and landscaped character.

    The original wooden brick pavement of thecoachway and the riding way was changed in the 1930s. The loss of natural rain water retention resulted in the impairment of the plane trees. From the 1960s the increase in urban traffic caused serious air and soil pollution, and the condition of the plantation declined quickly. The renewal became a necessity by the 1990s, but the method was very much debated. At last a mixedreplantation was decided, where the middle section was totally renewed with common ash trees.

    While the third section kept its original tree canopy, at least for one more decade. The unhealthy, badly-formed plane trees have been replaced. Unfortunately the riding and pathways were not renewed, even the asphalt pavement was not changed. The totalreplantation and the renewal of the third section came only in 2006, when both the green lane and the pavement of the pathway were changed, though the asphalt cover of the riding way still remained.

    the new plantation and new tree stock have an absolutely different crown form and character, far from compatible to the grandiose streetscape and the scale of the avenue. But at the same time, the common ash tree is better able to tolerate the typical urban environmental burdens such as the urban heat island, the loss of rainwater and humidity and contamination of air and soil pollutants.

    Total renewal may also be justified when a strong linear element of a former Baroque garden structure is to be reconstructed, making essential the preservation of the uniform appearance. In the Upper Garden of the Royal Palace ofGödöll?, the total renewal of the horse chestnut avenue that dated back to the Baroque age took place as part of the general renewal of the garden in 2009-2010. The original common horse chestnut (Aesculushippocastanum) was replaced by the red horse chestnut (Aesculus xcarnea), a hybrid that is more resistant to the horse chestnut leaf miner -- an insect that has caused considerable harm to the trees of Hungary.

    During the 300-year-long history of theGödöll? gardens, while they have been reconstructed and renewed several times, the conscious additive and integrative development principles always played the leading role. This is why several elements of the Baroque epoch were fitted into the new garden structure so as to appear as an organic whole. In the case of the chestnutallee, an attractive mixed plantation of deciduous and evergreen trees dissolved the strong, direct linearity of theallee.

    While developing the renewal plan by the Department of Garden and Open Space Design the above mentioned additive, integrating philosophy characteristic of the garden?s history was taken into account. The chestnutallee was in such a bad condition that the most thorough survey of the trees confirmed the initial impressions. Only the third of the whole tree collection could have been retained, but even there were many leaks in theallee. Thereplantation had to be organised in the frame of the renewal of the whole garden.

    In spite of the fact that replanting the original horse chestnut species was not a viable solution, the new trees proved to be appropriate both in character and growing strength. Though it was a totalreplantation, the significant similarity of the two specimens resulted a great appearance and an authentic renewal.

    Among Hungary?s landscape gardening anddendrological treasures, the 2.3-kilometre-long avenue of linden trees inNagycenk is one of the most remarkable. The double avenue of trees, dating back almost two and a half centuries and forming an imposing visual axis of the formerSzéchenyi estate, is of both historical and cultural importance and represents a unique landscape creation.

    ?The beautiful castle and the garden with the orangery belong to CountSzéchenyi. There is a wonderful alley consisting of around 600 linden trees leading from the garden up to a small hill with a grove in a five quarter hour?s distance.? (Rotenstein, 1763) The site?s landscaping and aesthetic distinction is based on its monumentality, as well as on the architectural and landscaping harmony between the castle and the castle gardens and, last but not least, on the captivating beauty of the ancient trees that make up the avenue. The scientific significance of the avenue lies in the invaluable research value of the 250-year-old trees that have remained in the alley as living gene-bank reserves. Together with the historic palace, the avenue (at least its first section) is a protected site and was included on the World Heritage List in 2001.

    The importance of the Széchenyi family is outstanding in the Hungarian history and culture, their name represents a hallmark of the cultural, scientific, social and economical/industrial programs and development of late 18th, early 19th century. The fact that the alley was planted, maintained, used and loved by theSzéchenyi family creates an ethical engagement for the professionals and all the interested officials engaged in the preservation and renewal process to work out a special method for the preservation of all sort of values represented by and in the alley.

    The Department of Garden and Open Space Design ran a workshop this spring to make a detailed survey of the alley. A detailed survey and a complete digital database have been worked out. Around 42% of the tree stock has been defined as vital, dating from the original plantation. That means that we have 327 very old trees from the early garden period, which were contemporaneous with theSzéchenyi family. These trees have a special value in the renewal concept, as they can serve as a gene bank for the propagation and the authenticreplantation. At the same time theseSzéchenyi trees can be selected as special assortments.

    A total of around 60% of the present tree substance comes either from the original plantation or from a very earlyreplantation. This data proves the good quality and vitality of these linden trees even if their condition is not very good, which is not surprising given their age and the gradual environmental and land use changes that happened in the past 250 hundred years.

    The philosophy of the renewal program is the preservation of the Genius Loci, that is the spiritual and intellectual heritage of theSzéchenyis?, who lived there, who used to ride and walk along it, who enjoyed the magnificence of nature and who maintained it for hundreds of years. Therefore the nursery substance for thereplantation should be made out of the vegetative propagated posteriors of the still living original veteran trees. Thereplantation should be planned over the long term, and all sections should be planted with the same old nursery substance so as to keep on the uniformity in the alley along the whole replantation period.

    The preservation of the genius loci and the original gene substance makes this alley renewal method a unique one not only in Hungary. The propagation of the strong individual trees is an interesting experiment from adendrological point of view, and also offers the possibility to select a new specimen. It is more than obvious that this expensive and time-dependent way of alley renewal can be offered only for very specific and valuable alleys. This strictly authentic preservation of the historical and cultural value manifested in the alleys is an idea that may be worthy of the memory of the original owners, the countSzéchenyis, this outstanding noble family in the Hungarian history. Preserving their legacy is our ethical duty.


    Blenheim. Landscape for a Palace. Edited: James Bond, Kate Tiller. Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd. Oxford University Department for External Studies 1987 Krosigk, Klaus-Henning, von.: Alleen ? Erhaltung und Pflege aus der Sicht der Denkmalpflege. Die Gartenkunst, 18. 2. 2006. p.303-310. Lehmann, Ingo,Rohde, Michael (Herausgeber): Alleen in Deutschland: Bedeutung, Pflege und Entwicklung.Leipzig, 2006.

  • Location : Hungary, Nagycenk, lat : 47.602911200000000000 - lng : 16.698818200000005000; Hungary, Budapest, lat : 47.497912000000000000 - lng : 19.040234999999940000; Hungary, Gödöll?, lat : 47.597510500000000000 - lng : 19.348001699999940000 address : Gödöll?, Hungary
Image Title: Ethical and aesthetic dilemmas in the renewal of historic allees and avenuesImage Title: Ethical and aesthetic dilemmas in the renewal of historic allees and avenuesImage Title: Ethical and aesthetic dilemmas in the renewal of historic allees and avenuesImage Title: Ethical and aesthetic dilemmas in the renewal of historic allees and avenuesImage Title: Ethical and aesthetic dilemmas in the renewal of historic allees and avenuesImage Title: Ethical and aesthetic dilemmas in the renewal of historic allees and avenuesImage Title: Ethical and aesthetic dilemmas in the renewal of historic allees and avenuesImage Title: Ethical and aesthetic dilemmas in the renewal of historic allees and avenuesImage Title: Ethical and aesthetic dilemmas in the renewal of historic allees and avenues