grow your own architecture grow your own architecture
jul 23, 2009

grow your own architecture

a conventional support structure is built for the trees to grow around, and after a few years, it can be removed and the ‘arbo-architecture’ can support itself image courtesy of development society for botany building and der spiegel

three young german architects, oliver storz, ferdinand ludwig and hannes schwertfeger, are designing structures made from living trees.

ludwig is grafting trees together – trunk to top, top to trunk – by seven young willow trees, with a scaffold used to support the tree tower. restricting the way in which the trees grow, allows the roots of the trees to protrude sideways and into containers of soil. as the trees reach a certain point, the roots are cut off, which allows them to merge into a single organism. to construct this type of architecture, he uses one-year-old willows that are a minimum of 10 meters (33 feet) long and those that are are thin and flexible. when they have matured to full strength, the trees will be able to support an 8 meter (26 foot) tower that he plans to build in south germany at the end of this month.

with his colleagues, storz and schwertfeger, they have called their specialty ‘botany building’. each of them have built structures built from plants, studying the elasticity of trees and researching how effectively willows can grow around steel pipes. they feel that trees are building materials equivalent to steel and concrete.

the beginning of any ‘arbo-architecture’ project requires the architects to build a conventional support structure. once this is done, young, flexible trees are attached to the structure and over the course of time the branches and trunks are manipulated into desired shape. as they grow, they begin taking on more of a load-bearing function. after they have been harvested this way for a few years, the support structure can be removed and the architecture of the trees can stabilize themselves, and the potential for roofs and floors can be installed.

a conventional support is built so that flexible trees can be attached and manipulated into desired form image courtesy of development society for botany building and der spiegel

over a few years, the trees take on more of a load-bearing function and able to support more weight image courtesy of development society for botany building and der spiegel

metal fasteners stop sap from flowing image courtesy of development society for botany building and der spiegel

in order to build architecture in this way, the trees need to be closely monitored and maintained image courtesy of development society for botany building and der spiegel

a small version of this type of growing architecture image courtesy of development society for botany building and der spiegel

image courtesy of ferdinand ludwig and der spiegel

currently, the group is working on constructing a tree tower image courtesy of development society for botany building and der spiegel

designboom is currently hosting the ‘green life’ competition. the incheon metropolitan city, korea is giving a major award for environmentally-friendly concepts, products and household items, all using alternative energy and/or made of organic or recycled materials. accepted are also ideas for street furniture, architecture and interior design, lighting devices, and effective ‘green communication’ projects, such as promotional materials / advertisement. this is really a RICH contest as designboom will be able to distribute a total amount of USD 41,000.

source der spiegel

  • Not a nice way of treating a living tree.

    grisch says:
  • What constitutes a “nice” way of treating trees?

    That comment is laughable, and I’m not saying this in a mean way or trying to belittle your opinions.

    But how in the heck is this hurting anything? It’s a great idea, a wonderful symbiotic relationship with nature.

    Have you ever seen a bonzai tree? Does it look upset? :'(

    Oh well, this idea is awesome! Maybe if they hug the trees while they build with them we will have less complaints about tree rights.

    daniel j says:
  • I had a little bonzai who was suicidal suffering from depression
    RIP lil’ Leafy

    Miyagi says:
  • Well, a bonzai is nothing but a castreted tree used by us humans as a decoration object, mmmm… not nice. Any living organism should be treated with the same respect as u treat your mother or your sister. How? letting them develop in freedom.

    grisch says:
  • I think the idea is very interesting,, introducing a living organism to a man made material, , bio-architecture!! and growing!!! ?? If the tree survives and keeps on growing,, it is better the cutting then !!

    maud says:
  • do you use paper? wood? anything else made from trees? take it easy,,, what do you think your home is made of?

    beta_waves says:
  • if they aren’t damaging the trees i don’t see the problem grisch. they are still growing and thriving.
    and i agree, much better than cutting them down.
    i think you are projecting on these trees.
    would you be upset if I ate a carrot? I am about to.
    and that is much more lethal to vegetation than this.
    not nice

    daniel j says:
  • Quite a controversy…
    Paper, carrots, wood, etc are death organisms. I’m talking about a living tree- wath about a bridge made of cows?

    By the way, nothing new: google “axel erlandson”

    grisch says:
  • Elementos naturales conformando nuestra vida… que delicia. Vivir armonizados y dejarnos envolver por nuestro medio ambiente (de manera controlada) es lo mejor.

    Ilo. says:
  • first of all, trees cant feel! they have no brains!, they are driven by their genes to grow! …… if it is possible to use the tree for home construction while its still alive then go ahead!!

    Alexander says:
  • for dem treehuggers …

    ok well let the trees grow in freedom, in the woods and when they have a nice size well cut’em to make a normal woodbuilding …

    happy now ?

    rbt says:
  • it’s an amazing idea 😀 LOVE IT!

    lavender says:
  • Have no problem with eating a dead cow or using a dead tree as wood. Eating a fish while it still alive because you are bored of sushi or forcing a living plant to support an structure because you are bored of wood is shameful

    grisch says:
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