Chopping down trees in order to fulfill the mankind’s architectural and fuel needs have turned some great forests into rare sightings. This human practice has wrecked havoc on the climate and ecosystem of the planet. In the long term, it also threatens to destroy humanity altogether.
To deal with this urgent need to halt the flow of deforestation while finding a viable alternate, Dr. Ferdinand Ludwig, an architect, has found an ingenious solution.
His company called Baubotanik, or Living Plant Constructions has taken inspiration from the much popular ancient art of tree shaping to devise this unique solution.
Tree shaping was done for centuries worldwide, ranging from medieval European topiary to Japanese bonsai. Baubotanik uses the natural process of grafting, and adds metal scaffolding and other construction materials to transform the trees into a load-bearing structure. In no time, the tree and its branches grow around these man-made materials to complete the living breathing house!
The choice of this kind of trees for this project was obviously a major variable. After an extensive research, Ludwig found out that the most suitable tree species were the flexible and fast growing ones such as sycamore/plane tree, poplar, birch, and hornbeam. He also utilized willow at the start of this amazing project, but soon it was abandoned due to its problems of rotting and lesser durability.
Ludwig’s Baubotanik Research Group has been working on this concept for decades. They have completed three seminal works to make these botanically inspired buildings a reality. Back in 2005, Ludwig, Oliver Storz, and Cornelius Hackenbracht met to create a footbridge that was made using metal scaffolding inserted into willow trees.
A young tree was used to install the stainless steel tubes. It eventually grew around the material fully to embed the material. A fully functional bridge was created that was supported on the tree columns with the steel tubes used as handrails for the 2.5-meter-tall elevated walking surface.
After the bridge, Baubotanik went on to create a three-story-tall willow tower that was 9m high. The steel tube scaffolding was anchored into the ground, and then the containers of willow were inserted in the tubes. The plants were watered constantly to encourage fast growth.
The architects shaped the willow saplings into crisscrossing formations by drilling them in place with screws. The building is still supported on the metal scaffolding, but it will be removed once the structure is stable enough to support itself merely on the tree.
However, the masterpiece by Baubotanik is unarguably the ‘Plane-Tree-Cube Nagold’ building. This is the first of its kind to be developed for an urban environment. It was created for a 2012 regional horticultural show in Nagold.
The building has a scaffolding structure that acts as a temporary base, and is based on a living and growing sycamore tree. This structure has won several awards over the years. It is shaped over time using pipes, regulators, sensors, and valves.
A few years back, the treehouse was opened for the public. The Plane-Tree-Cube design was grown outside the building so that the metal scaffolding could be eventually removed.
For now, these sculpture cum architecture Baubotanik buildings cannot replace the contemporory construction practices, but these buildings are a good way to divert our attention towards creating a more sustainable future.
At the moment, all the designs are time and labor intensive. Moreover, high maintenance is required because they are living and breathing structures. If this problem can be solved, these buildings can be used for more practical purposes besides encouraging biodesign and harnessing nature existing benefits.
Would you like this beautiful loading bearing natural structure in your house? Comment below!