Tag Archives: what will Nature be like in the future?

The Gardened City

The French left Shanghai with the former French Concession streets lined with plane trees. Many more trees were planted across the city in the 1950s and they continue to provide shade and coolth today. Streets like the one below are attractive and also very welcome on hot days.

We now know that the bark and leaves of plane trees can trap airborne pollutants and so many Shanghai roads now inadvertently have a degree of pollutant removal at source. None of the scenes below is exceptional but Shanghai has many many scenes likes these and this is exceptional.

In this next photo is a wide sidewalk with two rows of plane trees and a gathering of rental bicycles.

Further to the left is a new and additional belt of trees and planting called Shanghai Greenway. This section was maybe 15 metres wide but the greenway totals about 112 kilometers in length and links several parks. This section had the distinctive smell of conifers.

Shanghai was blessed with trees anyway but this greenway is a recent addition. New residential developments are planned around existing trees and supplemented with others. The newly planted street trees at the entrance to this housing development are going to have yet more plants at their bases. This is a private developer going that little bit further to make a difference.

The same happens with new retail developments. Trees might be seen as part of the charm of Old Shanghai but they’re a significant part of the charm of the new.

It seems you can’t have too many plants in a city. The sidewalk in this next photo has a row of plane trees, a line of kerbside planters and three lines of stepped planters on the other. This shouldn’t seem strange but it is. There’s some sort of policy at work and it seems to involve growing plants on any piece of land not built on, driven on or walked on.

If you wanted to discourage people from jaywalking – not that people do – then this would be a good way to do so. It’s an opportunity for more plants – hibiscus, in this case.

Back on the sidewalk, there’s no need to choose between using land for plants or for bicycle and scooter parking.

It seems that any urban space that can be cultivated will be cultivated. Durable and low-maintenance hard landscaping isn’t preferred. This next is a green roof on some underground ventilator. It could easily have been some other kind of roof but it’s not. It’s reducing the urban heat-island effect and the rate of stormwater runoff but we can also appreciate how it looks.

This construction site hoarding could easily have been a sheet metal wall or even a masonry wall topped with ridge tiles but it’s a living wall. The plants are real.

Otherwise unused and unfriendly spaces beneath bridge approach roads are opportunities for parks and gardens. The photo on the left below is of a park and monument to the workers who built the nearby Nanpu and Yangpu Bridges. It’s a handsome monument.

This footbridge has been designed to have containers of plants on each side, dwarf bougainvillea in this case.

If I were caught in traffic on the Yan-An Elevated I might appreciate the planters of dwarf bougainvillea lining each side of it, as they do many other sections of elevated road. It’s prettiness where you least expect it and potted bougainvillea are not plane trees growing in the ground but, theoretically at least, this is another example of pollution control at source. Narrow tubes looping between the planters are probably the reticulation system.

Note the trolley busses.

Planters only seem to be used only when there’s no alternative. The footpath outside this public toilet can’t be compromised, and the ferry is a ferry.

The spaces below elevated motorways are typically difficult to love but it doesn’t take much coaxing to get ivy to grow up the supports and to even creep along the underside in some places. It’s going to be wonderful, more effective than an upside-down High Line, more surreal than a Stefano Boeri or a Heatherwick, and for less cost, maintenance and liability.

It’s said “Doctors bury their mistakes – architects cover theirs with ivy” but using ivy to cover something that people don’t generally like the look of anyway must surely make it better than it was before, even if only visually – which it’s not. I don’t understand why all cities aren’t doing this instead of letting billionaires and architects distract us with visions of futures less immediate. This should be our Plan A.

• • •

Urban gardening is extremely good value for money and especially so if the climate is plant-friendly.

Shanghai’s is warm-temperate with precipitation all year round and an average minimum above freezing. But just because things can grow doesn’t mean people will want to plant things everywhere and take pleasure in watching them grow. The 2010 Shanghai Expo no doubt prompted movements to prettify the city in readiness and this may have set this greening process in motion. “The rate of increase of [Shanghai’s] surface urban heat island (SUHI) effect has slowed due to reasonable urban planning and relevant green policies since the 2010 Expo”. If there’s some sort of policy at work, then I’m amazed how unforced it all looks, probably because it resonates with a cultural preference anyway.

It’s more apparent in the smaller cities but there is a Chinese tendency to not leave any patch of land uncultivated.

Vegetables aren’t about to be grown on the street verges in China’s largest city but its surfaces can still be cultivated to provide other types of nourishment. If I had to think of what links all this, I’d say it’s an appreciation of an everyday symbiotic relationship with plants, and not just in Shanghai. This electrical substation is in Wenzhou at that mall I keep mentioning. The grass is real.

The construction site hoarding as living wall was a spectacular exception but, back home now, the default construction site hoarding is a masonry wall, painted white and capped with brick intended to resemble a traditional wall. It took me a while to realize they were construction hoardings.

More short-term hoardings for roadworks are often covered in some Astroturf equivalent. I’ve seen others with images of grass but I’ve also seen them with images of fake grass. On the surface, an image of fake grass is no better or worse than an image of real grass but it does encourage us to see them as equivalent, continuing the postmodern project for representations of things to substitute for the things themselves.

And on it goes. We now call mountain-shaped buildings mountains and call vegetated buildings forests. I suspect the real reason gardening the city is not being promoted more in Western economies is not because it costs money and labour but because it’s free for the public. The trend in Western societies these past few decades has been for anything free to become paid and for anything public to cost more. So instead of more plants in our cities we have projects like Boeri’s Vertical Forest (2014) in Milan which is PRIVATELY-OWNED NATURE attached to privately-owned apartments even if the public can still see it. This is not the case for Boeri’s Mars proposal which would be CORPORATE-OWNED NATURE.

It would also an example of SEQUESTERED NATURE for all the benefits of growing plants are kept inside the enclosure for the people wth a reason [$] for being there. In that sense it’s no different from BIG and Heatherwick’s proposal of a enclosed garden environment for Google Headquarters.

Foster+Partners Apple Headquarters (2017) and Gehry’s (2015) Facebook Headquarters are also sequestered nature but at least their plants were on the outside where people unable to see them can theoretically benefit from a marginally improved air quality and urban heat island effect.

Ultimately, there is PAY-PER-VIEW NATURE which is gardens accessible to the public at a price. Heatherwick’s London Garden Bridge proposal was going to be this. The “sky garden” at the top of Rafael Viñoly’s 20 Fenchurch Street (2014) is free to the public until 6:00pm but after then accessible only to paying customers of the restaurants. So far, Heatherwick’s Little Island (2021) in NYC remains free of charge.

MVRDV have experience with PSEUDO-NATURE and PRIVATELY-OWNED NATURE but their London Mound (2021) is unashamed PAY-PER-VIEW NATURE.

London Mound is a temporary artificial mountain built to monetize a patch of grass and paving at London’s Marble Arch. Not many people have anything nice to say about it. Organizers claim it’s because it was opened too early, presumably in an attempt to claw back the £6,000,000+ construction cost. Its purpose is to increase footfall past shops on London Oxford Street. MVDRV’s PR says the project has a serious message. It does. Once people begin to prefer representations of Nature over Nature itself, then it’s only a small step towards making them pay for it. The bigger game is to make real Nature redundant so nobody cares what happens to it.

All these dysfunctional natures work to lessen our attachment to Nature, so I’m not surprised nobody’s rushing to emulate Shanghai’s example of a simple, inexpensive and free-to-the-public approach to more plants in the city. I will surely visit Heatherwick’s mountain-esque “1,000 Trees” at Shanghai’s M50 arts space. Representing Nature was a bad idea but not as bad as objectifying representations of it on pedestals and disengaging plants from the ground.


For the bigger items you’re going to have to talk to your municipality. For a more immediate result you could always scatter some seeds along some public path or road. Nature will do the rest.


Habitat Compensation Island

This post appears as the article For The Birds in the publication Monument to Habitat Compensation Island, available on GoogleBooks.

For The Birds

Route E11 is the UAE’s longest road and runs mostly parallel to the Gulf coast and sufficiently inland to bypass the natural inlets around which grew the historic town centers of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Ras Al Khaimah.

The 1963 opening of the Al Maktoum Bridge across Dubai Creek made the E11 even more important for the movement of goods between Abu Dhabi and Dubai and the other emirates to the north.  

This 1960 First Dubai Master Plan by John Harris shows Al Maktoum Bridge crossing Dubai Creek

Dubai has only 4% of the UAE’s oil reserves compared to Abu Dhabi’s 92% and so, in the 1960s, Dubai’s ruler HH Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum made the decision to shift Dubai’s economy away from oil and towards trade and tourism. Abu Dhabi didn’t have the need and the other emirates didn’t have the revenue to invest as Dubai did with infrastructure projects such as Port Rashid (1973) near its northern border with Sharjah and the Port Jebel Ali (1979) cargo port near its southern border with Abu Dhabi. Both intensified the movement of goods throughout the UAE but the new cargo port freed up Port Rashid for cruise liners to service the growing tourist industry. Development in Dubai can still be thought of as infill along E11 between those two ports. 

When it opened in 1973, Dubai World Trade Centre was the tallest building in the Arab world and its location shifted the physical and symbolic center of Dubai towards E11 and the movement of people and goods along it.

Dubai World Trade Centre is the tall building in the distance in this photo, circa 1978. The original (old) town of Bur Dubai is in the distance to the left.

This pattern of building infrastructure attractors to stimulate infill led to the Financial Centre Free-Trade Zone (2004~) between Trade Centre and Dubai Mall/Burj Khalifa (2008/2009) and Mohammad bin Rashid City (2012~) residential development between Burj Khalifa and Dubai Marina (2003). Opposite Port Jebel Ali is Al Maktoum International Airport (a.k.a. Dubai World CentralDWC; 2010~) that will eventually take over the international passenger handling role of DXB. The goal is not to increase the movement of goods and people within the emirates but along the major global sea cargo and air traffic routes on which the UAE lies. 

Burj Al Arab (1999) stands on an insignificant dot of land which was Dubai’s first man-made island but no other building in the world is shaped and positioned as iconically. It sits offshore like a cruise liner and one thing we know about cruise liners is that they stop at destinations worth visiting. Burj Al Arab put Dubai on the tourist map but The Palm Trilogy made the world notice.

There’s no historic, logical or theoretical way to understand The Palms. They’re not copies of anything or a development of anything we know. They resist incorporation into Western architectural discourse. Outside the UAE, the attitude is that making islands for hotels, apartment buildings and villas is somewhat frivolous despite it being acceptable in the case of major economic imperatives such as airports. 

It hardly matters now. The 2008 Global Financial Crisis meant that short-term development costs suddenly outweighed whatever long-term value was anticipated. Trophy island projects like Palm Jebel Ali, Palm Deira, The World and The Universe weren’t the only casualties. 

The massive development of development of parks, lakes and towers that was to be Jumeirah Garden City downscaled to the Citywalk (2012~2019) mixed retail and residential development [above] around a multi-purpose arena.

This 2007 video shows how Jumeirah Garden City was imagined.

The new build the other side of the road is what it downscaled to.

The Red Line of Dubai Metro (2009) parallels E11 to link the two airports and everything in-between, including the old areas of Deira and Bur Dubai and the crowded towers of Dubai Marina (2003) and Jumeirah Lakes Towers (2006~) from which many people commute to Abu Dhabi. 

Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City (2009~) was downscaled as development objectives shifted from creating attractions for short-term tourists to creating amenities for long-term residents. The E11 extends to the border with Saudi Arabia but continues as the E10 into Abu Dhabi which is a city on an island surrounded by other islands. The history of Abu Dhabi is not one of making islands but of shaping and connecting them in the knowledge that tourist attractions will increase traffic and residential amenities will encourage infill development. The E12 is the new road into Abu Dhabi, passing through Yas Island (2006~) with Yas Marina Formula I CircuitFerrariworldWaterworld, and Warner Bros. World and then through Saadiyat Island with Louvre Abu Dhabi (2017) as the first of many planned attractions. All along the Gulf coast, marinas, peninsulas and detached islands are still being made to define sections of coastline for concentrations of retail and entertainment amenities. All have the economic imperative of appealing to visitors and residents alike. 

The centrepiece of the Al Raha development, just outside of Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi’s Habitat Compensation Island results from the economic imperative of keeping the harbor channels dredged and is partial compensation for all types of lost habitats, whether on land or undersea.

Dredge spoil can be disposed of in many ways but using it to make an island is neither quick, easy nor cheap. Countless barge-loads of rocks first have to be deposited to form breakwaters in positions and shapes that encourage currents to stabilize and deposit more sand that will eventually sustain flora and, in turn, fauna.  

The UAE lies midway along the West Asia – East Africa Flyway, one of the world’s nine major bird migration routes. It’s the dark blue one.

Abu Dhabi’s Al Wathba Bird Sanctuary, Ajman’s Al Zorah Nature Reserve and Dubai’s Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary are wetland stopovers for some 270 species of migratory birds but, most famously, the Great Pink Flamingo that migrates from Iran, the Caspian Sea, and Central Asia. Numbers swell to several thousand in winter but not all fly on.

The sanctuaries teem with birds but so do the frangipani and poinciana trees planted alongside roads, in parks, golf courses, and villa and hotel gardens whether on land or island. Birds don’t care if something is natural or artificial. Most will stay for a while and then fly on but some will stay for longer if the environment is sufficiently nourishing. We who live here are not that different.


Future Nature

At least The Futurists were honest about it. Nature sucked for being too natural, too simple and too uncontrived. And, worst of all, because they hadn’t designed it – a situation they quickly remedied.

ballas flowers

Nature’s making a comeback – not in its abhors-a-vacuum sense but the more sinister sense of being an object of design once again. This time though, we’re approaching The Futurist position from the opposite direction, and by stealth. It’s a very noisy stealth as this year has already seen a rash of Nature-flaunting projects cross our screens and consciousnesses. They leave a telltale trail.

Future Nature will be everything Nature wasn’t. Think fat-free strawberry-flavoured milk with added calcium, vitamins and probiotics. Future Nature is not natural.

Future Nature will have more and better plants. There will be no sickness or disease. There will be no ugliness as plants will be chosen for looks rather than utility or biodiversity. There will be many flowering plants but no birds or insects. There will be no sex. As soon as they’re past their prime, plants will be replaced with new ones on the verge of it.

How man regards Nature is probably a good indicator of level of civilisation. A brief history.

STAGE 1: Working with Nature: In some long-lost agrarian past, people used local technologies and resources to build what they needed. Nature was what one had to work with and accumulate knowledge on how to do so using less labour, time and other resources.


STAGE 2: Objectifying Architecture 1: Nature and building are juxtaposed in order to observe and appreciate each other.


PHASE 3: Objectifying Architecture 2: This is the same as Objectifying Nature in that the more artificial the building and the more natural the landscape the better, but the viewpoint is shifted. We are now the strangers in the forest observing the building in Nature, not the Nature.

These views are the majority. The house, framed by trees, is iconified, made central, the main event.
This is what the Kaufmanns saw. Pretty lame by comparison, isn’t it?

Phase 4: Objectification of Architecture as Nature

This is Nature as a new kind of architectural ornament. First there were green roofs. We used to think they were a good idea. We still do, but no longer care if they don’t really work. Or even if they do.


We moved on. In cities, roof gardens and sky gardens can be pleasant places to be like this Foster & Partners’ one in Spitalfields. It’s not a public garden and there’s no real reason why it should be. It’s a bee-buzzing biodiverse place to have a sandwich.

secret garden

When they’re not value-adding private space [c.f. Architectural Myths #4: Gardens in the Sky], rooftop gardens can be value-adding pseudo-public space such as this next [c.f. Cherry Blossom Season].


Future Nature will be privately owned and policed. Let’s not even start to talk about The Garden Bridge that, at the cost to the UK taxpayer of £60mil. will offer Londoners a “new view of London” according to its designer, Thomas Heatherwick. But maybe we should. It’s one of a recent run of plant-themed proposals from the Heatherwick stable.

Heatherwick’s thing for the Bombay Gin distillery is a classic example of the objectification of Nature, both Mediterranean and tropical, contained and on display as ornament


like a Victorian stuffed owl under a glass dome.

in that something totally unnecessary is being done to objectify Nature and make some sort a statement of authenticity like the growing basil you see at Italian restaurants. This is another annoying aspect of Future Nature – we can’t be left untold about it.   

And not like this.

This one has been quiet recently. Those trees grown yet? [psst. The latitude of Cupertino is 37.3175° N and thus north of the Tropic of Cancer. Angling PVs north is not a great idea.]


There’s a lot of green stuff happening and, to be sure, it looks like there is going to be if the following drawing is truthful. The primary purpose of the peripheral trees is for visual privacy (a.k.a. security). They’re not so close to the fence people can use them to climb over.


Foster & Partners do have a history of using Nature to soften their tecchy-ness with a touch of environmental whimsy.

St. Mary Axe even seemed credible until we were suddenly asked to believe the same story without one of its main characters.


F&P make no such grand claims about how Nature is being used at Apple Headquarters apart from saying lots of trees and grass outside your window is a good thing for natural ventilation. Pity us poor souls who dare open a window with less benign climates and/or less and/or lesser Nature outside! A barrier of trees is a logical and inexpensive choice to provide visually inoffensive privacy and security but it’s an expensive yet environmentally friendly way of providing the appearance of cleaner air. It’s difficult to visualise a more wholesome environment.


By comparison, real Nature looks spooky and threatening.

As with St. Mary Axe, Foster & Partners have again created a building where the Nature bits can’t be taken away without destroying the stated premise of the exercise. The visualisers may have gotten overexcited with their primordial savanna vs. building-beyond-time conceit but that’s just visualisers doing what they do.

Lady late for work.

What’s annoying is being made to feel these people are so fortunate despite none this Future Nature being public but, as with the London lavender garden, no compelling reason why it should be. It’s just being shoved in our faces as a symbol of some perfect future world Foster & Partners have designed but are unlikely to influence anyone to create for the rest of us.

It’s a little more real with Gehry’s Facebook. Online, there’s far too many images like these next three. When there’s a camera around we all like to show our best corner.

And why not?

Facebook must have banned employees from posting images of the rooftop garden. This one was put out by Gehry’s office and reposted by the New York Times


along with this more informative aerial drone shot that reassures us we’re not missing out on much.  


With two of our modern media overlords already accounted for, it’d be a shame to forget the third – Google. But how can we when Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick are on the case? February 2015 treated us to the first media announcements such as this.

News: Google has released a movie detailing its plans for a new California headquarters designed by the studios of Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick.

In the movie, you may have noticed David Radcliffe (Vice President, Real Estate and Workplace Services, Google) of Google saying “Tech really hasn’t adopted a particular language for buildings.” Oh yeah?

Google Data Center, Mayes County
Google Data Center, The Dalles, Oregon
Google Data Center, The Dalles, Oregon
Google Data Center, Pryor, Oklahoma (note the Nature)
Google Data Center, Pryor, Oklahoma

In the movie, both designers emphasise the importance of nature in their proposal. I’m not saying that because Ingels and Heatherwick say it it’s necessarily a lie, but I do smell a rat. Everybody likes Nature when it’s reduced to blue skies, grassy clearing, green trees and cherry-coloured blossoms. I can’t help thinking that evoking Nature in these three projects is nothing more than a smiley interface for the purposely opaque business end of these operations  carried out in real and imperfect nature made fit for purpose with knockdown prices, tax breaks and various business concessions. We might be forgiven for thinking all this talk of Nature is some sort of corporate penance but that would assume such a thing as corporate guilt exists. Since it doesn’t, we can only conclude that Future Nature is a red herring

Future Nature is not our friend. We may be currently infatuated with datascapes and city digital footprints but they’re a trivial sideshow. If Future Nature succeeds in making us dissatisfied with the imperfections of real Nature, then we’re well on the way back to believing air conditioning and artificial illumination are better than ventilation and lighting provided by Nature. Game over, basically.

• • •

The main evil of Future Nature is that it’s Nature loaded with dubious meanings. It’s Post Modernism applied to plants. Once Nature is objectified, then an ironic Nature is not far away. Once that’s allowed, we can ponder the meaning of Nature deconstructed? Or what Parametric Nature might be. We’re somewhere about here now. Having to carry needless meanings never did buildings any good. These next images are of my special places. This Nature is not trying to be beautiful. I recommend you find some special places of your own and preserve them in your minds as reference points in a future world gone mad.


The Things Architect Do #8: Cherry Blossoms

And so, as Japan’s 2015 cherry blossom viewing (花見) season draws to a close , it’s time to reflect upon what these flowers have come to mean to us. 

A cherry blossom is the flower of any of several trees of genus Prunus, particularly the Japanese Cherry, Prunus serrulata, which is called sakura after the Japanese (桜; さくら). Currently it is widely distributed, especially in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere such as: Europe, West Siberia, China, Japan, United States, etc. (ref.)


Cherry blossoms are getting to be widely distributed in the virtual world as well. Here’s four renders of W57th Street, courtesy of BIG/Glessner Group. “Yikes – they’ve got the joint surrounded!” Glessner and BIG have history. Here’s their 2009 VIL School With Cherry Blossom.

seeing double

That same cherry tree went on to have further adventures in America .


London also has its fair share of cherry trees, most recently those associated with Rafael Viñoly’s 20 Fenchurch Street death-ray generator. It’s risky enough on the ground but radioactive cherry blossoms in the Sky Garden up top are a sinister infra-pink.


Eternal spring beats grim realities. We know we’re being cheated, but more on this later. Here’s some cherry blossoms from a virtual Italy. No vertical forest is complete without a cherry blossom farm.

Render for Bosco Verticale

Just as a side-note, before and during cherry blossom viewing season, Japanese people often make polite conversation about the stage of cherry blossoming they most prefer viewing. It’s taken as an succinct indicator of character type whether one prefers 1) the fresh beauty of barely blossoming and full of promise, 2) the splendrous beauty of promises fulfilled, or 3) the fading memory of promises fulfilled. There’s added kudos for appreciating those sexually charged moments between 1) and 2) or the varying degrees of inevitable pathos between 2 and 3), and yet more kudos for articulating the appreciation of some tertiary stage even more fleeting. But Japanese will be Japanese, aestheticising everything. For us in cherry blossom render land, it’s always full-on.

But cherry blossoms in Arizona – really? This next image has the contrivedly balanced colour palette of a Chinese poster. It may not be accidental.

poster_baby30 copy

This one’s from homedesigning.com.


You’ll remember this turgid scene from The Third And The Seventh. Or maybe not. Sensing demand, CGI specialists share their triumphs and notes on how to best render cherry blossom trees. This is Tech Plaza Changsha (claimed to be) “for Austrian architectural company COOP HIMMELB(L)AU in 2013”.


Here’s one from Snøhetta for, it seems, a new kitchen for a French laundry in California.


Snøhetta and friends MIR are responsible for this next. It has a dreamy, surreal whimsy.


Not unlike a Chagall. But overall less gloomy. And with more pink.


Heatherwick (“Best of Class”) Studio isn’t beyond adding what seems to be cherry blossom as the eleventh of Bombay Gin’s famous botanicals although, to be fair, at this distance, it could be an almond tree.


It seems unfair to call this next building a “roadside café” but that’s what inhabitat did. These images are unique in that the cherry blossom trees are real. Imagine that!

* * *

On the zero–to-ten scale of EVERYTHING THAT’S WRONG IN THE WORLD it’s not that important but have you noticed ArchDaily doesn’t make any distinction between photographs and visualisations? It’s all “photographs” to them. This is not right. The architectural marketplace has been slow to adapt to online selling but is now beginning to fully embrace it like anyone else with product to shift, hoping to convert likes into sales. In ignoring the distinction between reality and image, ArchDaily are going with the flow. In blurring that distinction, they’re really just lowering standards of content and therefore facilitating the flow of imagery from producers to consumers and, in the grand scheme of things, maintaining their advertising revenue.


I don’t know how this advance of the cherry blossom trees is going to end but I have a bad feeling. Like Macbeth had about the forest.

In a last attempt to work out what this all means, I avoid the haiku poets’ poet Bashō, and instead consult poet-for-the-people, Issa Kobayashi (1763-1828).

Twenty thousand poems! This is really quite a lot. Though none are very long.
And what did I learn? Inconclusive conclusions, but I sense a trend. 

In haiku, cherry blossoms often indicate an ethereal beauty or the transitory nature of existence. Or both. Or something else.

末世末代でもさくらさくら哉 (masse matsudai demo sakura sakura kana)
The world is corrupt, approaching the end of days … but cherry blossoms!
[ how easily we are distracted from what desperately needs putting right ]

米袋空しくなれど桜哉 (kome-bukuro munashiku naredo sakura kana)
I know my rice sack is empty but just look at those cherry blossoms!
[ people stupidly prefer pleasure to nourishment ]

大かたは泥にひつつく桜哉 (ôkata wa doro ni hittsuku sakura kana)
Most of them end up trodden over in the mud … those cherry blossoms.
[ we choose to not see the bigger picture ]

神風や魔所も和らぐ山ざくら (kamikaze ya madoko mo yawaragu yama-zakura)
Their divine wind makes an evil place less evil mountain cherry blossoms
[ renders of shit buildings look better with a few cherry trees ]