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Tree Saplings: The Latest Architecture and News

Baubotanik: The Botanically Inspired Design System that Creates Living Buildings

Timber buildings are regularly praised for their sustainability, as carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere by the trees remains locked in the structure of the building. But what if you could go one better, to design buildings that not only lock in carbon, but actively absorb carbon dioxide to strengthen their structure? In this article, originally published by the International Federation of Landscape Architects as "Baubotanik: Botanically Inspired Biodesign," Ansel Oommen explores the theory and techniques of Baubotanik, a system of building with live trees that attempts to do just that.

Trees are the tall, quiet guardians of our human narrative. They spend their entire lives breathing for the planet, supporting vast ecosystems, all while providing key services in the form of food, shelter, and medicine. Their resilient boughs lift both the sky and our spirits. Their moss-aged grandeur stands testament to the shifting times, so much so, that to imagine a world without trees is to imagine a world without life.

To move forward then, mankind must not only coexist with nature, but also be its active benefactor. In Germany, this alliance is found through Baubotanik, or Living Plant Constructions. Coined by architect, Dr. Ferdinand Ludwig, the practice was inspired by the ancient art of tree shaping.

Willow tower after completion. Image © Ferdinand Ludwig Connection detail 2012. Image © Ferdinand Ludwig Test field with inosculations. Image © foto chira moro Plane cube: view from south-west directly after completion. Image © Ludwig.Schönle + 8

Stickwork / Patrick Dougherty

Disorderly Conduct; Courtesy of Patrick Dougherty
Disorderly Conduct; Courtesy of Patrick Dougherty

Patrick Dougherty is best known for his sculptures that break down over time. You may have seen one of his temporary works without realizing it. Built primarily from tree saplings woven together, each sculptures is approximately a three-week construction project where Dougherty and his group of volunteers carefully create the habitat or environment of this a tangled web of all natural materials. Because the sculptures are made of organic matter they disintegrate, break down and fall apart, becoming part of the landscape once again. Most people see habitats and shelters in his work – which is what many of them are meant to be – but “castles, lairs, nests and coccoons” isn’t what usually comes to mind. In an interview with Dougherty for the New York Times, Penelope Green discusses his only permanent work and the origin of his interest in what is referred to as Stickwork, now available through Princeton Architecture Press.

Patrick Dougherty has made over 200 sculptures in the 25 years that he has been creating Stickwork. But his construction work began when he was 28, working for the Air Force in the health and hospital administration. He decided to buy property in North Carolina and build his own house from the materials on the site. Collecting fallen branches, rocks and old timber, Dougherty was able to construct his home, in which he still lives with his wife and son, with a few additions. By 36, Dougherty decided to return to school for sculpture and attended the art program at the University of North Carolina. His interest in what nature had to offer led him to develop his tangled sculptures. Each sculpture is different and depends greatly on the site. Each project is different and depends on the volunteers that participate and the public that never fails to stop and watch the sculptures being woven together.

View some of his projects after the break.