Sarah Rich

A LIVING HOUSE - Terreform's Fab Tree Hab

by , 09/18/05

Terreform, TeREForm, Michael Sorkin, Mitchell Joachim, Postopolis, Future-forward green design, green architecture, living tree house, growing treehouse, living architecture, fab tree hab, Omni Bub, shoe car, sheep car, sustainable design

Inspired by the ecocentric attitudes of such beloved American nature-lovers as Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman and Alcott, three MIT designers – Mitchell Joachim, Lara Greden and Javier Arbona – created this living treehouse in which the dwelling itself merges with its environment and nourishes its inhabitants. Fab Tree Hab dissolves our conventional concept of home and establishes a new symbiosis between the house and its surrounding ecosystem.



In order to build the arboreal frame, the designers utilize “pleaching” – a gardening technique in which tree branches are woven together to form living archways. Trees such as Elm, Live Oak and Dogwood bear the heavier loads, while vines, branches and plants form a lattice for the walls and roof of the house. The interior structure is made of cob (clay and straw), a tried and true green building approach, that lends itself to customized shaping of walls and ceilings.

The trees that form the frame and the plants that grow on the external walls are meant to provide sustenance for the inhabitants and other living creatures who interact with the structure. On this level, the designers aim to demonstrate that natural building materials, when utilized in their living state, can create a “superstructure” that is biologically pure and contains no unknown substances. They point out that new building materials, even those that champion sustainability, are nevertheless industrially manufactured and contain components that are not fully understood in terms of their longterm impact.

Terreform, TeREForm, Michael Sorkin, Mitchell Joachim, Postopolis, Future-forward green design, green architecture, living tree house, growing treehouse, living architecture, fab tree hab, sustainable design

The Fab Tree Hab is one of a long list of top nominations for awards at Index:, a world design event taking place this fall in Copenhagen beginning September 23. This is the first year for Index: , which is planned to continue on a four-year cycle. The core goal for design entries into Index: is “Design to Improve Life”. By scanning the list of nominees, it’s clear that the interpretation of the goal is extremely varied, and has turned out some phenomenal concepts and products. Most have not come to fruition for public consumption, but many seem like feasible possibilities for the near future. If the Fab Tree Hab becomes available, we’ll be the first to go hunting for a clearing in a nearby forest.

+ Index
+ Archinode: Mitchell Joachim’s site
+ Javier Arbona’s site
+ Terreform

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17 Comments

  1. Tiwaz September 11, 2010 at 5:49 am

    @Vyon The idea of the structure is that the growing wood replaces the initial built skeleton. Also built into the concept is various ways of keeping out bugs, including organic pesticides, produced from by-products of the daily life.

  2. yo July 10, 2010 at 11:01 am

    creo que la idea esta muy buena, aunque cuesta imaginar al mañana así, pero de todas formas,estoy deacuerdo!…deberíamos empezar a tomar mas conciencia a cera de estos temas!

  3. vyon July 7, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    To poster “Cernansky” – You don’t get to keep insects out. We have had climbing ficus on our house for fifty years – it covers about 20 metres of concrete basement wall. It makes a marvellous tree house for New Zealand Wood Beetles – a kind of monster cockroach that lives on decaying leaves. They are frequent visitors inside – as is the ficus itself, which climbs through every available crack – around window frames, under the back door – and so on.

    I have considerable doubts about this house as a long-term project. The adventitious roots that hold the ficus up destroy anything soft (adobe, wood, other trees) and permanently mark anything hard (concrete, window glass) They give way altogether in a drought year, and the plant won’t grow at all in areas shaded by other nearby trees. It is extremely high maintenance, needing a permanent full time gardener (me!) to keep it under control. Windows need clearing monthly if we want any light at all inside.

    It would be great for a garden show, but not (yet) a practical solution for “green” housing.

    I live in Tauranga, New Zealand, sub-tropical maritime climate and 37 degrees south.

  4. Luck-Haller March 23, 2010 at 7:14 am

    Hello,

    we would like to use the photo “fab tree house” in a brochure for children in Germany. Is this possible? Can you tell me the conditions?
    It is a non commercial brochure (for schools) from the Ministry of Environment in NRW, Germany.

    Kind regards
    Erika Luck-Haller

  5. fasteddie August 21, 2009 at 11:48 am

    I have a home made from trees myself. They took trees and cut them into boards and nailed them together to make rooms and everything. Trees are so awesome that way.

    We even took more tree boards (they called them ‘lumber’ at the ‘lumber yard’) and attached them to the outside of the house as a deck so we can enjoy nature in the evening from the comfort of our tree house.

  6. archthai August 17, 2008 at 3:58 am

    I wish to have one. I want to make it myself and i think we don’t have to care much about authority and or how to find the spec writer if this better our environment.

  7. Jordi July 4, 2008 at 3:44 am

    I love vegetated architecture There are many artists that were looking for this house, like ArborSmith Studios. Many other living tree houses will follow fab tree hab. Like the forest house.

  8. Monkey Plunger » ... November 25, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    [...] love treehouses here at Inhabitat and are enamored with eco-architect Mitchell Joachim’s visionary ideas about how to grow living treehouses from ficus molded around frame structures. [...]

  9. Living Treehouses &raqu... November 20, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    [...] read more about “Living Treehouses”, click here. Tags: Inhabitat, Living Treehouses, Mitchell Joachim, TeReform Architecture Permalink   | [...]

  10. ArchiNews » VIDEO... November 20, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    [...] love treehouses here at Inhabitat and are enamored with eco-architect Mitchell Joachim’s visionary ideas about how to grow living treehouses from ficus molded around frame structures. [...]

  11. Inhabitat » VIDEO... November 20, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    [...] love treehouses here at Inhabitat and are enamored with eco-architect Mitchell Joachim’s visionary ideas about how to grow living treehouses from ficus molded around frame structures. [...]

  12. Inhabitat » TERRE... June 14, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    [...] could revolutionize the way we live. Mitchell Joachim might be best known as the purveyor of the Fab Tree Hab – a living house built from a growing structure of trees and vines – but he’s got big plans for the world of transportaion and urban design as well. Along with [...]

  13. Todd June 6, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    So, if a chair takes 8 years to grow – http://www.arborsmith.com/newsletter18.html – can I move in to my arbor home before I die? Should I leave it to my grandchildren as inheritance?

  14. Inhabitat » POSTO... May 31, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    [...] Lebbeus Woods, Mark Wigley, Ada Tolla & Giuseppe Lignano of LOT-EK, Michael Sorkin & Mitchell Joachim, Michael Bierut and William Drenttel, among others. In fact, we have so many great speakers that I [...]

  15. Inhabitat » POSTO... May 27, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    [...] Lebbeus Woods, Mark Wigley, Ada Tolla & Giuseppe Lignano of LOT-EK, Michael Sorkin & Mitchell Joachim, Michael Bierut and William Drenttel, among others. In fact, we have so many great speakers that I [...]

  16. Cernansky March 14, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    How do you keep insects from living in your home with you? It sounds like a neat idea, but it’s hard to imagine that you can keep the bugs out.

  17. Inhabitat » Blog ... June 12, 2006 at 1:31 pm

    [...] There are houses built in trees and then there are treehouses. Last year, we had one of our first encounters with a home literally made from trees, using an ancient technique called pleaching – the art of weaving (and sometimes grafting) trees together to form structures. The Fab Tree Hab was one of the design entries for the Index: awards, emerging from the genius of a crew including MIT architect Mitchell Joachim and our friend, Javier Arbona of Archinect. The project description emphasized consideration of whole systems (and ecosystems) in creating a truly sustainable built environment, rather than a piecemeal approach that could yield uncertain longterm outcomes. [...]

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