For the past several years, members of the Research Group Baubotanik at the Institute of Theory of Modern Architecture and Design (University of Stuttgart) have been focusing on 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 very south of Germany and offers the opportunity to carry out practical tests.
The group led by Prof. Gerd de Bruyn, the director of the institute, expects that the realisation will lead to scientific progress.
Nearly 9 meters high with a base area of approximately 8 square meters, the tower demonstrates the architectural and ecological potentials of living plant constructions: Trees with their metabolism contribute considerably to a healthy microclimate in cities and they enrich 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 in the dimension of fully grown trees. Thereby it is possible to create in short time green spaces that combine the aesthetic and ecologic qualities of trees with architectural usage and functionality.
One organism out of several hundred plants
Basically, the tower consists of a framework-like structure made of several hundred young, only two meters high plants (White Willow/salix alba). Only the plants at the ground are planted in the soil, all others are rooted in plant containers, plugged in a temporary steel scaffolding. Thereby the architects make use of a quite old technique: Plants of the same species can be merged to one organism by methods similar to grafting.
After several growth periods, 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. As part of his PHD studies, Ferdinand Ludwig from the Research Group could show that and how this grafting method works.
In the current year, the plants will sprout out and form a green wall, and in the course of the following development the at the moment very delicate stems will become thicker and thicker by secondary growth. 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 will be investigated at this tower building – a time period between 8 and 10 years is estimated.
The living tower was realized as part of the PHD project 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 September 19, 2009. On the site (Neue Kunst am Ried“, Wald-Ruhestetten) there is the opportunity to visit a baubotanical catwalk, too.
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