The German research group Baubotanik aims to make buildings out of living trees, and when it was built in 2012, the Platanenkubus was the largest baubotanical building ever attempted.
The research group was started in 2007 by Prof. Gerd de Bruyn at the University of Stuttgart, and in the past years has expanded to a network of engineers, architects, and scientists. One of the leading Baobotanik practitioners is Ferdinand Ludwig, who designed the Platanenkuben. The idea is to combine living and inert structures in designs that allow many plants to grow together and become a larger, connected creation.
In one early project, the group created a footbridge held up by trees. Around 2009, they created an experimental tower. In the tower, a metal scaffolding supports a group of plants as they’re guided to grow and graft together. Eventually, the plants should be able to support themselves, and the supports can be removed.
The Platanenkubus takes this same idea and plants it in an urban context. Originally created for a horticultural show in Nagold, the cube now needs years to grow into the full realization of Ludwig’s vision. The trunks will have to be around 8 inches in diameter before the scaffolding can be removed; right now they’re closer to 2 inches wide. The plants on the upper floors have to be given water and nutrients right now, but eventually, as they grow to the trees planted in the ground, the root system should supply the whole structure with everything it needs.
Know Before You Go
The cube is surrounded by a fence, but it's possible to visit on a guided tour.