Trees are the most fundamental shelters for humans and fauna alike. Vitruvius said it; Marc-Antoine Laugier drew it: Trunks equal supporting columns, the crown of leaves is the roof. Most architects have paid homage to the tree by imitating their structure, often even in stone. But why not skip a step and simplify things by actually using the trees themselves as the building?
Tree-shaping is by no means a new thing, and humans have been controlling the way plants grow for a significant chunk of horticultural history. Although influencing the direction and shape of growth has often been used for aesthetic purposes, like that seen in bonsai or topiary, there are significant practical advantages to the form, too. In comparison to constructs made of lumber, "arbotecture" is not only more resistant to decay; it is also more structurally-sound—after all, joints eventually disappear as tree branches fuse together.
Auerworld Palace by Sanfte Strukturen
The Sanfte Strukturen project started in 1985 and has since completed 60 willow structures based on the techniques of sumerian-reed constructions in Mesopotamia. This form of tree-shaping becomes a beautiful marker of time, as the shelter changes with the years and seasons.
Tree Chair by Pooktre
Tree-shaping can also happen on a much smaller scale. Peter Cook and Becky Northey have quite the quirky collection of chairs and sculptures accumulating in their garden. They are not alone, however; quite a few artists and designers are actively experimenting with this new approach to wood, including Treenovation, Richard Reames, Chris Cattle, Mr. Wu, and Nirandr Boonnetr.
Sculptures by Patrick Dougherty
Although these don't actually grow, they are made from young interwoven saplings that withstand the seasons—a faster alternative that could come in handy on a camping trip.
Close Ties, 2006. Scottish Basket Makers Circle, Dingwall, Scotland. Photo by Fin McCrea via Patrick Dougherty.
Just Around the Corner, 2003. New Harmony Gallery, New Harmony, IN. Photo by Doyle Dean via Patrick Dougherty.
Bridges built by the locals of Nongriat in Meghalaya, India
Bridge in Meghalaya, India. Photo via travellenz.
Double-decker bridge in Meghalaya, India. Read more in our previous post.
Baubotanik structures by Ferdinand Ludwig
These Baubotanik buildings contain structural framing on the interior and the facade is replaced by trees that will provide shelter as they increase in density. "Living and non-living machine elements are joined in a way to make them 'intergrow' to a vegetable-technical compound structure," says the artist.
Baubotanik Tower. Photo via Ferdinand Ludwig.
Plane-Tree-Cube Nagold. Photo via ecospeech.
The Patient Gardener by VisionDivision.
This is project that will be realized at Italy’s largest technical university, the Politecnico di Milano, and will include two stories: an inhabitable bowl of dense branches over a dome of trunks. As this will be made from Japanese cherry blossoms, we can only imagine what a gorgeous marker of seasons it will be. (Read more about the project here.)
Photo and image via archiscene.
Fab Tree Hab by Terreform One
This building concept has been formed as an alternative to current solutions at Habitat for Humanity. The bio-design-obsessed firm proposes to graft native trees onto CNC-ed scaffolding in order to provide housing that is integral to the local ecological community.
Image via neo-planete.
Image via TED
Sunland Baobab by ... nature
If all the above methods seem like too much work (and time), why not follow the way of the squirrel and just occupy an existing tree? The "Sunland" baobub is measures more than 108 feet in circumference and has a hollow interior (which happens to baobubs that are more than 1,000 years old—this one is about 6,000, by the way). And what better way to contemplate this natural phenomenon than with a cold beer in hand... it is a pub, after all.
Photos via krapooarboricole