In a culture hooked on speed, concrete and suburban sprawl, sustainable design cannot mean "more of the same" that's dressed in a "green" veneer, but is still fundamentally at odds with long-term, natural constraints. Rather, what is needed is a paradigm shift in our relationship with nature and our built environment. In this beautiful instance of "slow design" by Swedish architecture firm Visiondivision, cherry trees are gradually shaped to form a two-storey structure over time -- generating another "resilient" vision of design and habitation.
Conceived as part of a week-long workshop at Politecnico di Milano, over which the firm presided as guest professors, this "arbortecture" project compelled students to reflect on a different way of designing that could counteract the negative ecological impacts of our speed-addicted culture.
The result is "The Patient Gardener," an outdoor structure that will be sculpted out of ten cherry trees planted in a 8 meter diameter ring. According to Visiondivision, the idea is to work -- and wait -- patiently over time, bending, twisting, grafting, pruning, weaving, regulating light and water to modify the trees into an occupiable framework:
Our intention with our project was to construct a study retreat at the campus with patience as the main key for the design. If we can be patient with the building time we can reduce the need for transportation, waste of material and different manufacturing processes, simply by helping nature grow in a more architectonic and useful way. The final result can be enjoyed at Politecnico di Milano in about 60 years from now.
The lovely drawings of the project are reminiscent of old botanical illustrations:
The start of this collective project began with the construction of a temporary wooden tower that will act as an anchor point to which all the saplings will be tied to in order to form the structure. Later, the growing trees will form a dome, and will be shaped and woven to form the canopy level above.
Sixty years may seem like a long time to wait for a structure to appear and coalesce over time -- but the implication is that it will be cared for over time, with its stewardship eventually being passed onto the next generation -- something that we don't think about with our conventional building culture.
As Japanese treehouse builder Takashi Kobayashi once said, only when humans live closely with trees, and make the shift to see them as 'home' -- will we stop seeing them as mere resources to be exploited.