What Is Arbortecture? Gorgeous, Truly Green Building, That's What.

Photo: fixing-shadows/Flickr.

There was slow food and slow fashion, and now there's slow design. In the case of fashion and food, the slowness has to do with savoring and understanding where the food or fabric comes from — and where it's going. In an ancient form of slow design, arbortecture, the slowness can refer to the time it takes to actually grow furniture or buildings.

Yes, that's right, not build, but grow. This ancient form-meets-function design is all about using trees and plants, manipulated over time, to create all sorts of things.

Peter Cook and Becky Northey created a company, Pooktre, that produces furniture, frames and sculpture from living trees. My favorite is the chair, which looks really comfortable, never needs to be cleaned or replaced, and could be (Anyone who has spent time in a trees' branches knows how comfortable they are for resting in).

And talk about low-impact! Arbotecture, if applied to long-term projects, could result in a net loss of carbon dioxide for building as the tree uses CO2 from the atmosphere — which would only be increased by the use of faster-growing trees, which would be more likely to be used for this kind of project.

Other projects have included a ficus hut on Okinawa (ficus are the same houseplant/trees that we often buy with the trunks intertwined, which was what was done here), that is made up of many trees working together. And the famous Indian bridges, which are crafted from the roots of rubber trees, are beautiful, functional and strong, holding up to 50 people easily. (It's interesting to think about a structure getting stronger and tougher over time too, rather than degrading). They take about 10 years to "build," but some may be older than 500 years.


YouTube contributor notes: "At the base of India's Meghalaya Plateau, the local tribes have created bridges across the area's rivers using living tree roots and branches. These bridges last for hundreds of years (the lifetime of the tree)."

Related to but not the same as arbortecture is arborsculpture, which uses trees and plants in a more decorative fashion, and which is popular around the world.

Photos: Arborsmith Studios, Pooktre