In a bid to protect trees and the fast-dwindling forest cover, architect Ferdinand Ludwig has come up with the brilliant concept the calls Baubotanik. Instead of using timber for building houses, Ludwig proposes erecting a living, breathing structure that relies on an actual tree for support. The innovative technique combines tree shaping and the latest technologies in architecture to construct a building that improves the environment by producing oxygen and trapping carbon dioxide.
Also known as Living Plant Constructions, the amazing project is a modern take on the centuries-old art of tree shaping. Inspired by Japanese bonsai and the European horticultural practice of topiary, Ludwig and his team has developed an incredible construction technique that relies on a living trees and metal scaffolding to create a stunning, eco-friendly habitat. The trees, according to the architect, serve as load-bearing structures that gradually wrap the exposed metal framework.
Years of research has allowed Dr. Ludwig to zero in on the particular tree species that are best suited for this purpose. Therefore trees that are both flexible and fast-growing, such as poplar, sycamore, hornbeam and birch, are usually the best choice. Although widely used by tree sculptor Patrick Dougherty, willow is prone to rotting, and also lacks the kind of durability needed for building a Baubotanik.
So far, Ludwig has worked on three different versions of the Baubotanik. Back in 2005, he worked alongside sculptor Cornelius Hackenbracht and architect Oliver Storz to construct a 2.5-meter-long footbridge using only willow trees and metal scaffolding. For the project, the team erected a network of stainless steel tubes, in between willow saplings that eventually covered the entire structure. Interestingly, the tubes were meant to serve as handrails for people traversing the footbridge.
As part of a later project, Ludwig built the spectacular 9-meter-tall willow tower, which housed a total of three stories. To build it, the team first erected temporary steel scaffolding, anchoring it to the ground for stability. Willow saplings placed on the framework were regularly watered and shaped into beautiful diagonal formations. These plants were then secured to their places using screws, and allowed to grow into full trees. Once the living structure was stable, the metal scaffolds were carefully removed from the site.
In 2012, Ludwig and his team built the largest Baubotanik structure, which they are calling the Plane-Tree-Cube Nagold. Designed as part of a local horticultural show in a small German town, the building is also the first of its kind to be constructed in an urban location. For the project, the architect uses an actual sycamore tree as the frame, along with huge metal scaffolding. Like its predecessor, the tree in this case was also shaped artificially with the help of regulators, sensors, pipes, valves and so on. Once the scaffolds were removed, people were asked to climb to the top of the tower.
To know more about these wonderful designs, head over to Baubotanik’s official website.