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Living plants in architecture and design

6 June 2019

Use of living plants in construction has developed over the 20th century and picked up considerably for several years with architects and designers.

Use of living plants in construction has developed over the 20th century and picked up considerably for several years with architects and designers. Living architecture is not new. In India for example, Khasis build living bridges for centuries with aerial roots of Ficus ELastica. Some of those bridges would have been planted 500 years ago.

Plants most commonly used to build with living plants are ficus, willow, plane tree or hazel because of their rapid growth and their thin bark which facilitate melting between branches or stems.

In Occident, Axel Erlandson was one of the first to study inosculation, a natural process leading up to the melting of branches or stems. Some of his arbosculptures can today be viewed in the Gilroy Gardens in California. Erlandson experimentations have inspired architects and artists as Christophe Cattle, Richard Reames, Marcel Kalberer, Giuliano Mauri or Ferdinand Ludwig.

Platanen Kubus (2012) imaginated by Ferdinand Ludwig is a multi-story structure comprising of more than 1000 plane trees that the architect has combined into a single living organism. The living building materials overgrow a steel framework and as the years go on, will transcend into the bearing elements. As time goes on, the steel scaffolding will be gradually removed in what is a very careful, considered and numerical process. The end of this process, and the finalizing of the construction is estimated to be in 2028.

Living plants shaping is not only used in architecture. Designers also used it as Gavin Munro chairs fields in UK show. This designer cultivates chairs in line with John Krubsach who harvested the first cultivated chair in 1914.

 

Photo : Willow palace by Marcel Kalberer © D.R.

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