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Subject Subject Subject
Enclosures and Systems
Plane Tree Cube
Fab Tree Hab
Living Root Bridges
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
My goal was to research the integration of
living plant/food systems into building systems.
This goal fits within a broader objective of
understanding how architecture responds to
and leads environmental sustainability and
food production for new urban models.
My approach has been to study the use of
living plants in building systems, both as an
enhancer of passive environmental strategies
and towards sustainability and/or food production. Documentation involved online literature research, interviews, site visits and photos.
Relevancy to Future Research
Increased prevalence of industrialized farming
and the spatial arrangement in cities
contribute to a distant relationship between
humans and nature. Current food production
and consumption practices have a heavy
ecological impact as cities increasingly
promote convenience eating and grocery
stores stock processed food manufactured
many miles away. Architecture, as both a
respondent and shaper of culture, can play a
critical role in reconnecting us with food and
nature. This research is relevant to my thesis
interests that focus on the question:
How can architecture affect rituals of growing,
buying and consuming food and thus develop
more sustainable urban models?
Baubotanik, Stuttgart by practicing architects
Ferdinand Ludwig, Oliver Storz and Hannes
Schwertfeger in Stuttgart, Germany who work
from the Institute for Architectural Theory
(IGMA) at the University of Stuttgart.
“Baubotanik is a method of construction that
utilizes living plants as the load bearing systems
in architectural structures. Baubotanik takes
advantage of the “constructive intelligence”
of plants.” In summary, Baubotanik involves
the use of a temporary structural scaffold onto
which trees are grafted. When the trees reach
maturity, the support structure is removed and
the trees support the load of the building.
Additional Research Profiles
Contemporary Case Studies:
• Eco Boulevard, Spain
• Fab Tree Hab, USA
• Park Supermarket, Netherlands
• Living Root Bridges, India
• Arthur Weichula, Germany
• Konstantin Kirsch, Germany
• Rudolph Doernach, Germany
• Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Austria
“Primitive Hut”, the first act of architecture made from
living trees, source: http://deconstructionand.files.
Purpose of this Report
To fulﬁll the required 03.0 credit hours of a
technology core course at a Master of
Architecture level (ARCH 5992). The proposed
study has been completed as a technology
elective supervised by international visiting Professor Richard Kroeker and submitted through
What is Baubotanik?
Baubotanik is a building process that uses
living earth-bound trees as structural members.
Live trees are planted in the ground, roots
serving as a foundation and trees as columns.
Temporary scaffolding supports the floor plates
while grafted trees come to maturity (10-15
years) after which time the scaffolding is removed and the trees support the floor plates.
Baubotanik buildings are best suited for
outdoor pavilion type structures but could
support enclosed structures, depending on the
program and climate. See Baubotanik future
proposals at the end of this section.
• Enclosures and Systems
• Case study: Nagold Tower
Preparation for Building
Trees are pre-grown in a nursery and rather
than pour footings, the trees are planted and
roots act as foundations/footings. Steel
scaffolding and floor plates are prefabricated
for quick assembly on site.
Obviously a major challenge is the construction
time, which takes 10-15 years. With that in mind,
this structural strategy has a number of benefits.
The wood used in the structure is 1:1 compared
to traditional wood frame construction which
wastes much wood. It is a building method for
the long term and if planned as such, can grow
along with the program in an environment.
The “Tower” project,
scaffolding and tree
As the trees take 10 - 15 years to reach
maturity, temporary scaffolding is put in place
and later removed when the floor plates can
be supported by the trees.
with the tree
two year old
An important strategy for Baubotanik building
is tree grafting to increase strength of the structural elements. Two or more trees are grafted
together. Simply, two branches naturally fuse
when they are pressed and held together, a
phenomenon that occurs in nature anyway.
Tree grafting in the Baubotanik process is used
in a strategic way as a whole structural system.
Tree grafting significantly increases the amount
of wood per living column. Trees which have
been tested with successful results are as follows:
• Birch (works well but is short-lived)
• Sycamore (“Planaten” used in Nagold
• Black Alder, European Alder or Common
• European or common hornbeam
• Beech (slow growing)
• Willow (works well but is short-lived)
merged in a cross-knot
The Baubotanik lab is conducting further tests
on a number of tree species including ash,
hickory, elm and oak. Most of the species are
also found in Canada which would suggest
the application of this technique there.
so they will
“The nodal points where
the plant struts are
joined with the stainless
steel handrail make visible how the stability of
the structure increases
through the growth.”
- Ferdinand Ludwig
after the fourth growing
season, the branches
the metal hand rail
after the second
growing season, the
branches start to
merge around the
metal hand rail
merge of two
branches in the
Nagold project from
which these details are
tree columns will
the steel connection
to the floor plates
Many trees are
to make each
strong earthbound column
The Baubotanik researchers used multiplying to
strengthen the columns in the Nagold Tower,
shown here. The main strategic difference
between baubotanik and typical “green walls”
is that the living trees are all earth bound. This
requires less maintenance as the trees perform
virtually as they wood in nature. In order to multiple the tree columns using tree grafting, the
Nagold Tower has earth boxes on each level.
When the trees have merged together, the
earth boxes will be removed and only the roots
at grade will be feeding the final structure.
but the earth
bound roots die
and the boxes
This strategy comes from the ancient fig tree
process where a new trees grow over top of
the old one, naturally merging to create a
new stronger tree. Eventually the original tree is
By grafting the young tree columns together
and planting many trees within the structural
system it accounts for variance in the tree
growth. Certain trees will die in the process
as survival of the fittest takes place. The
Baubotanik researchers believe that enough
trees have been planted in their structures to
prevent the building from collapses when a
few die. They also prune the trees regularly so
the South facing trees do not get too big and
shade the North facing ones.
for surviving trees
in the structure.
different possible structural
for the trees
multiple trees merge to
form fewer stronger trees
to steel foot
The first time the Baubotanik group experimented with living trees as structure was in this
foot bridge built in 2005. Young willows were
planted as columns that instantly beared the
load of the walking bridge. Willows have a
short life span but can be easily removed and
replaced if they die, making them an effective
tree for this experiment.
“The footbridge does not possess a foundation
in the usual sense of the word. The vegetable
supporting structure absorbs all the load exclusively and redirects it into the ground where the
structure is anchored by the roots.”
- Ferdinand Ludwig
Baubotanik’s first tower project construction is
shown here. All the parts are pre-fabricated
and pre-grown so assembly was quick.
trees grown in
of days the
the first steel
trees in earth
up with floor
tower under construction
uptake by the roots
trench / water storage
Enclosure and Systems
These images* are from a recent competition submission by Ferdinand Ludwig and the
Baubotanik team. They demonstrate proposals for living spaces, like exterior living rooms
to supplement single and multi-family living
* These images are not for public distribution without permission from Ferdinand Ludwig
Plane Tree Cube
The Plane-Tree-Cube is a contribution to the regional horticultural show 2012 in Nagold, south
west of Stuttgart. It is the largest baubotanik
building to date and the first to be constructed
in an urban environment. The trees used are
the “Plane tree”, most similar to American
sycamore. The initial structure is quite heavy including 36 tonnes of steel which will be 25 after
the temporary scaffolding is removed. Also 20
tonnes of earth in the planter boxes will also to
Nagold Tower is set to
open Spring 2012
Living plants, sun
and wind are
used to create
Eco Boulevard is a pilot project in Vallecas, a
suburb of Madrid by Urban Ecosystem (Belinda
Tato and Diego José Luis Vallejo García) to test
the climatic adaptation of outdoor spaces.
tree 1: “mediático” media
The “trees” are made with recycled materials
like linoleum, steel and concrete. The structure
stands about 60 metres tall with a radius of 29
tree 1: “lúdico” playful
tree 1: “mediático”
The “tree” cylinder is made up of sixteen tubular conduits with wind catchers at the top. The
wind catchers have sensors which expell air
hotter than 27 º C. The rest is pushed down and
cooled by water spray from the plants in the
wall. This reduces the air temperature by 10 º C.
It also purifies toxins in the air.
cool air vent
structure and plants
model view of
The Park Supermarket was designed by Van
Bergen Kolpa Architects of Rotterdam. This
“landscape supermarket” will be used for cultivating and selling food with departments for
rice, fish, meat, fruits, and vegetables.
The project includes inter-dependant energy
and growing systems and micro climates using,
for example, “warmth accumulating snake
walls and more contemporary solutions as insulating water spray ‘roofs’ and floor heating on
the basis of thermal warmth.”
section showing micro
Fab Tree Hab
Section of Fab Tree Hab
Fab Tree Hab
Mitchell Joachim, Ph.D. of Massachusetts
Institute of Technology on the Human Ecology
Design team, has designed a home made of
living plants, called Fab Tree Hab.
detail of facade
root system in
Solar radiation is linked to the importance of
water cycles in the structure. In the winter,
sun shines in the south windows, heating the
thermal mass inside. In summer the overhanging roof shades the interior and uses the sun
for photo-synthesis. A buoyancy-driven ventilation draws in cooler air at floor level. Solar
hot water activates radiant floor pipes. The
roof-top harvests water for human activity. A
composting system recycles human waste and
grey water which returns nutrients to the ecosystem.
Living Root Bridges
Living Root Bridges
Using a species of Indian Rubber Tree, people
have been growing Living Root Bridges for
more than 500 years. Using a hollowed out
tree trunk as a guide, they force the roots to
grow straight out across a river. In ten to fifteen
years, the bridges are strong enough to carry
humans, some bridges up to fifty people.
detail of bridge
Indian root bridge
As they are alive and still growing, they continue to get stronger over time.
drawing of bridge
drawing of living
Wiechula (1868 - 1941) was a German
landscape engineer who explored “arborsculpture.” He believed it was absurd to cut
down trees and saw them into planks when
buildings could be made of living plants. He
exploited the possibility of trees to be grafted
together in a structural pattern.
and shaping by
Konstantin Kirsch (born 1966) lives in Bauhaus,
Germany. He has conducted research for living
architecture since 1986. He is very involved in
the permaculture movement and inspired
the Baubotanik researchers.
Kirsch in his
by Konstantin Kirsch
In the early 1960s, architect Rudolph Doernach
investigated a marine colony made of living plant material, a form of “Biotecture” in a
form he coined Hydropolis. He was interested
in creating a material like a polymer made of
self-generating raw materials and a built-in
intelligence. He envisioned the dwellings as living, floating islands.
growing roof top
Friedensreich Huntertwasser (1928 - 2000) was
an artist who was also interested in architecture and environmental issues. Hundertwasser
focused on a type of architecture in harmony
with nature. He promoted the preservation of
the natural environment and “demanded a life
in accordance with the laws of nature.”
The drawing on the left demonstrates his commitment to promoting natural life cycles in
building. He designed composting toilets and
integrated the principles of a constructed wetland.
diagram of a
Most information was collected through two
interviews on January 16, 2012:
- Ferdinand Ludwig, Institute for Basics of Modern Architecture (IGMA), University of Stuttgart
- Moritz Bellers from the Institute of Landscape
Planning and Ecology at the University of
“Living Plant Constructions,” Ferdinand Ludwig
official website, accessed January 12, 2012,
“Baubotanik,” Baubotanik: Background of
a Building Technique, accessed January 10,
Other information was gathered from site visits
to the Nagold Tower project. Photographs are
courtesy of Ferdinand Ludwig or personal photographs of Beth MacLeod and Holly Simon.
They may not be published on line or for broad
distribution without permission.
“Park Supermarket,” van Bergen Kolpa Architecten, accessed January 7, 2012, http://
“Park Supermarket by Kolpa Architects will
grow food onsite,” EcoFriend, accessed January 7, 2012, http://www.ecofriend.com/entry/
* Images and information were collected from the
“The Root Bridges of Cherrapunji,“ Atlas Obscura, accessed January 15, 2012, http://
“Living Root Bridges,” Living Root Bridges Blog,
accessed January 15, 2012, ht tp://rootbridges.blogspot.com/
image (two black and white side by side)
“History of Arborsculpture,” Design Boom: Arthur Wiechula (1868 - 1941), accessed Janury
17, 2012, http://www.designboom.com/eng/
“ECOSISTEMA URBANO ARQUITECTOS,” MIMOA Modern Architecture, accessed February 19, 2012, http://www.mimoa.eu/projects/
Images are from the above sites and Kevin Lo.
“Primitive Hut” from Introduction source:
Architnet Discussion Forum http://archinect.
Fab Tree Hab
M. Joachim, “Fab Tree Hab,” 306090 08:
Autonomous Urbanism, Monson & Duval, ed.,
Princeton Architectural Press, 2005.
M. Joachim, J. Arbona, L. Greden, “Fab Tree
Hab,” Thresholds Journal #26 DENATURED, MIT,
“Local Biota Living Graft Structure,” Whole
Ecological Design, accessed February 18,
Images are from the last website listed.
“The Tree Dome,” Konstantin Kirsch Project
Website, accessed January 24, 2012. http://
“SeaFoam,” The Millenial Project 2.0, accessed
January 18, 2012, http://tmp2.wikia.com/wiki/
“Friedensreich Hundertwasser,” Wikipedia, accessed January 10, 2012, http://en.wikipedia.
“Roots: Hundertwasser, Veg.itect,” Veg.itecture: Beyond Green, accessed January 19,
“Eco Boulevard in Vallecas,” WikiArchitectura, accessed February 18, 2012, http://