The relationship between urbanisation and nature seems nihilistic and hopeless- civilization clears away forests, reduced vegetation causes imbalances in the environment, imbalances in the environment come back to haunt human civilization, and for that matter, all life on earth, and we all eventually die. Unless we find a way to colonize Mars, or something. Now imagine a scenario in which human constructions result in green cover. We explore some of the most incredulous and hopeful examples of living construction around the world.
- Living Root Bridges
These incredulous structures function as living corridors and walkways and are common in the forests of Meghalaya. They are the handicraft of the Khasi and Jainta mountain people, who inhabit the Southern Shillong Plateau. They are made by making the aerial roots of rubber trees (Ficus elastica) grow through betel tree branches until they reach the other side.
These bridges, once established, are technically useful for hundreds of years, and are glowing examples of sustainable construction. Sticks, stones, and other objects are used to stabilize bridge as it’s growing, as process that can take a couple of decades to complete.
- Green Roofs: California Academy of Sciences
Sod roofs have been around for centuries in Scandinvia, and are still a common part of farm buildings in Iceland. Layers of waterproofing protect the structure from moisture.
The signature, award winning green roof on the California Academy of Sciences is a modern example of a flat green roof. It hosts native plants such as beach strawberry, California fuchsia, and dudleyas and is the densest concentration of native wildflowers in San Francisco.
- Brown Roofs
A brown roof hosts more life on it than the average green roof. Brown roofs are intended to encourage a biodiverse population of flora and fauna to populate the area, to allow a mor wholesome harmony with nature. The Barclays Bank building at Canary Wharf is supposed to have the highest brown roof in the world. AT 160m, the roof, incredibly, hosts several species of grasshoppers, bugs, spiders and aphids.
- The Vertical Garden: L’Oasis D’Aboukir, or ‘The Oasis of Aboukir’
These constitute the most visible and popular attempts at living architecture. This beauty runs alup five storeys of a Parisian block. Patrick Blanc designed this wall to contain no less than 7600 waves of plants coming from a diverse range of species.
- Patrick Dougherty’s Charming Constructions
Right out of a fairytale, Patrick Dougherty’s constructions made from living, growing tree saplings that are twisted and bent into houses, cathedrals, sculptures, and a range of other installations. This installation of treehouses in Indiana looks like it was built by a secret civilization of beavers.
- Cathedral at Melbourne’s Federation Square
Sitting in the middle of a bald, urban space, this cathedral-like structure by Dougherty is a fantasy escape that offers an artistic contrast with the urban.
- Auerworld Palace, Germany
Germany was the first country to lead the green roof revolution in the 1960s, and it is estimated that about 10% of all German roofs are green today. This ‘willow’ palace in the forest was designed by Marcel Kalberer, who estimates that there are about 10,000 such constructions in Germany. It was built with the help of 300 volunteers from all over the world, and was completed in 1998.
- World’s First Tree Tower by Inhabitat
Plants at the base of the building were rooted into the soil, and others in containers attached to a temporary steel scaffolding. When the root structure is strong enough, the scaffolding will be taken down.
- Willow Chapel
The Vegetal cathedral at Rostock, simply known as ‘willow chapel’ is another graceful instance of living willow construction, this time by designer Sanfte Strukturen. It evokes a sense of reverence and awe at nature, creating a spiritual experience in today’s demystified world.
10. Fungus Tower at MoMa
David Benjamin of New York architects The Living used biodegradable bricks to construct this installation at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The bricks are made of mushroom mycelium, the part of the mushroom that is responsible for propagation. Mycelium is an extremely flexible material and can be incorporated easily into any structure. The idea was to introduce alternative material for temporary constructions.
These creative instances of architecture using flora make it possible to imagine the future of human civilization as one that will learn to live in harmony with nature.