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Living structures & buildings – made from plants – being made in Germany

26/08/2009 08:15:35
misc/misc 2009/willow_tower_u_stutgart

When the living structure is solid enough to carry the load of the three zinc-coated steel platforms and the working load, the scaffolding will be removed. Foto: University of Stuttgart

August 2009. For several years members of a research group at University of Stuttgart have been experimenting with the idea of living plant constructions. Recently the first "baubotanical" tower made of living trees has been completed. The prototypical building is located in the south of Germany and offers the opportunity to carry out practical tests.

The living tower, nearly 9 meters high and with a base area of approximately 8 square meters, demonstrates the architectural and ecological potential of living plant constructions: Trees contribute considerably to a healthy microclimate in our cities and they enrich our daily life with their appearance - but normally it takes decades until a tree is fully developed.

The aim of baubotanical research is to design and to build living plant constructions as architectural bearing structures using fully grown trees, and to create green spaces that combine the aesthetic and ecologic qualities of trees with architectural usage and functionality.

One organism out of several hundred plants
The the tower consists of a framework-like structure made of several hundred young, two meter high White Willow plants (salix alba). Only the plants at the ground are planted in the soil, all others are rooted in plant containers, initially contained within temporary steel scaffolding. The architects are making use of an old technique where plants of the same species can be merged to one organism by methods similar to grafting.

Scaffolding to be removed.
After several growth seasons, when the plants have joined and those at the bottom have developed a sufficient root system in the ground, the plant containers will be removed.

When the living structure is solid enough to carry the load of the three zinc-coated steel platforms and the working load, the scaffolding will be removed. How much time the whole process will take depends on many factors and is estimated at between 8 and 10 years.

The living tower is part of the PHD of Ferdinand Ludwig, advised by Prof. Gerd de Bruyn (Igma, University of Stuttgart) and Prof. Thomas Speck (Plant Biomechanics Group Freiburg, University of Freiburg). The building was designed and build in collaboration with the sculptor Cornelius Hackenbracht (Neue Kunst am Ried, Wald-Ruhestetten) and is supported by the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt, several companies, engineering offices and further sponsors.

The tower will be opened to the public at 19th of September 2009. On the site (Neue Kunst am Ried", Wald-Ruhestetten) there is the opportunity to visit a baubotanical catwalk, too.

How it is hoped the tower will look like in several years. Courtesy: University of Stuttgart

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