In the Spring of 2001 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Keiko Miyamori found the inspiration for a series she would call City Root. The Cambridge Plaza Housing Project in North Philadelphia was demolished to make space for a new residential development and with its demolition came the debris of brick, and building, however also the uprooting of trees around the area. Alongside the building debris were bulldozed trees that still had tangled remnants of concrete within its long roots.
The root that became known as the original City Root was originally a large oak tree that stood at the corner of Girard and 11th street with the roots spanning 6ft in diameter. When Miyamori first saw the large root during the demolition of the housing project, she was absorbed by the strength of the tree that had once majestically stood with its complex root map and its overarching canopy. Within the root were pieces of brick, glass, and metal that the tree had found strength to wrap itself around and persevere to continue its spread. It was striking to Miyamori to see the tree that still grew to that size despite the obstacles Man had left behind. To Miyamori, the tree represented the energy of the city— the life of a tree in the city, and the life of the city in a tree.
Miyamori then received a grant by placing first in the Frederik Meijer Sculpture Competition in 2004 to develop the sculpture that would harness the root in a massive resin cube so that it would be able to be shown outdoors at the Frederik Meijer Sculpture Garden. Due to scale of the sculpture and slightly reduced volume of resin, part of the cube developed cracks that were too fragile to be presented in an outdoors garden. To Miyamori, these cracks represent nature breaking free from its artificial constraints. Miyamori’s goal was to share the root and display the treasure that she had discovered, with other people. Shelly Electric, Inc. offered to display the sculpture to the public at their site in Philadelphia until August 2011. City Root currently resides in Philadelphia, looking for a permanent home. It weighs 20,000lbs, and stands at a 7’ x 6.5’ x 5.6’ cube.
In the wake of the City Root project, Miyamori made smaller scale cubes as experiments to understand the chemical reaction of the polymers of the resin with the natural material of a tree root, and the air bubbles formed. She developed a series of suspended roots in resin, exploring the relationship between nature and its artificial restraints.