Jill Fehrenbacher

VIDEO: Grow a Treehouse with Terreform

by , 01/30/11

We 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. We’ve covered these playful architectural ideas before on Inhabitat, but now we have a video from Mitchell Joachim explaining the details of how they work. Joachim does better justice to his imaginative ecological designs than we are able to do in a mere post, so if you have any interest in living treehouses (and we know you do), check out the video above.


Terreform, Terreform, 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

As part of the ecological architecture nonprofit Terreform, Mitchell Joachim, Lara Greden, and Javier Arbona designed 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.

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 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 long-term impact.

+ Terreform Video (45 Minutes – Full Video)

+ Terreform

+ Terreform’s Living Treehouse: Fab Tree Hab

+ Top Ten Treehouses

+ Terreform’s Soft Car

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45 Comments

  1. Gabriel September 20, 2013 at 12:46 am

    Architects in Jamaica ought to be fashioning some buildings like these.It would be consistent with the legend of our logo; Land of Wood and Water, ALSO GREAT FOR ECO-TOURISM.Inhabitat should direct a post of this description to Jamaica House for the powers that be to come to a realisation of its value for local business.

  2. Brandon Brandon August 29, 2013 at 10:54 am

    What program was this created in and what was used to render?

  3. Rinca7 May 31, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    Love it! I´m in!

  4. joe47 October 10, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    I’ve liked treehouses every since I was a kid. Great article! If you need woodworking plans to build a treehouse, you may be able to find them at http://howtobuildashedi.org/

  5. icreatables January 31, 2011 at 12:04 am

    I have always loved tree houses. The pics from Pop Sci are awesome. It is great to see new ideas. Thanks

  6. icreatables January 31, 2011 at 12:01 am

    I have always loved tree houses, great article. I love the pics from Pop Sci.
    Thanks.

  7. architectural experiments September 21, 2010 at 11:52 am

    @jayaprakash….gud thought …..am an architect from pondicherry….contact me through :marx.architecture@gmail.com

  8. quicksilver August 12, 2010 at 5:11 am

    great ideas….

  9. Soylent January 23, 2010 at 11:02 am

    There’s plenty of just plain crazy. At least this is the cool kind of crazy.

  10. Yuka Yoneda Yuka Yoneda January 22, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Hi Jaya,

    You can contact them at info@terreform.com

  11. jayaprakash January 22, 2010 at 1:44 am

    Wow,

    i like to experiment it in my resort at pondicherry, India. How can I get help to build cottages. how can i contact him.please help.

  12. Selvan December 4, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    I wanted to use a geodestic dome (only the frame) and weave KUDZU to fill the empty space. As KADZU grows rapidly and clings on to anything, the house can be completed sooner than 10 or 12 years. I wish i have the funds to try this idea.

    Selvan

  13. d l s October 19, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Crunch, crunch, crunch! Is that a deer eating the bark off my home? That means soon my suffering structure will die and cave in on my head. Oh well, I was tired of being eaten alive by ticks, snakes, and spiders anyway. (Spray poison on God’s creatures? Never!)
    Seriously: one needs a climate and ecology that only exists in Hawaii, and a large very piece of wooded property in order to start new homes perpetually. That way when nature takes its course with the first home, one simply moves next door, and so on down the row. I’ve seen this done in remote areas of Oahu, but elsewhere? Hmmmm

  14. Mariam August 26, 2009 at 7:27 am

    Great Idea! I like the idea to be so close to a tree. A living being just next to me. NIce communication with the tree I can imagine. Healing. And the house is in a process like we human beings. No stable concrete walls that give me a quare and artifical feeling. Nature around me!! Great!! Wishing you success and that there will be many tree houses in the next future!

  15. buddamind June 17, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    How amazing to see people reconnect and live in harmony with the Earth.
    Your readers should know this is of course not for everyone, and one time a tree
    grew out of a crack in the roof of my building in NYC. by the time I left there
    it was quite tall and strong…growing on no dirt. The Earth is amazing.
    Once I saw a tree in New Zealand that I knew people had lived under, you
    could just feel it. I sat there with my mom for some hours just feeling how that tree has sustained and held a family.
    We are a culture of convienience and disconnection, as a result people all over the world suffer.
    People who are thinking like these designers are at least thinking!

  16. Modular Buildings June 15, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Very inspiring!

    Ever since a child i have loved the idea of a tree house.

    Although this is certainly way better than my tree houses it would be no good to me as i suffer from hayfever.

    Also i think many people who do not like the idea of creepy crawlies would find this home a nightmare!

  17. elizahleigh May 19, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Thanks so much for covering the latest project by this team of eco-architect visionaries. I wasn’t aware that this kind of design existed, but it is so sensible in my opinion since it takes advantage of the natural protection inherant in a simple tree. Built-in insulation, shade, durabilty and beauty plus a direct source of life-giving oxygen? What more could the inhabitant want or ask for? I can imagine that people in these type of dwellings would truly thrive, and I don’t think that this structure would appeal soley to greenies like me. Thanks again — very inspiring, indeed!

  18. Wyatt ODay January 28, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Well, he has got one thing right, he is not an Architect. Fine idea, but I seriously hope this tree house is never built. All the energy going into that rapid prototyping (CNC) and the energy of just waiting for your house to “grow”, is WAY more than the energy to create a great piece of sustainable architecture. You have some publicity on the design and idea, now drop it and move on to something realistic.

  19. Professor H December 28, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    I love trees, and want to live in a treehouse. I love this concept,… but the branches would grow, die, shift, et cetera. This idea is best suited for a Harry Potter movie, to tickle our imaginations, but good for little else.

  20. Steve Baker October 14, 2008 at 4:54 am

    How will your tree like your heating and airconditioning? What happens if your house dies? He says that the walls are made using clay/straw – which is great – but you can build houses out of that stuff without the tree. What do we need the tree for? Most of the things that make building a house an ecological nightmare are still there. You still need solid floors – wiring, plumbing, heating, A/C, kitchen cabinets, carpets….all you saved was the structural timber…which is in no way the biggest impact from building a house. As far as I can see – the tree part of the structure ends up being just decorative…and it’s ongoing lifecycle will gradually tear apart the ACTUAL structure – which is the clay/straw…if the activities of the humans inside don’t kill it first.

    It’s a cute idea – but it’s really a non-starter.

  21. Disinn September 20, 2008 at 7:31 am

    That’s a awesome idea!

    Remember that the tree trunk is one of the strongest columns. So i’m thinking you can build very tall estates. You can build one floor, wait till it grows a bit more, like wait for your kids to grow up and build an other floor.

    Like with all technology, it needs high investment but unlike new technology this is already practical. Growing trees straight or in a planned direction is surly not new.

  22. Re-leaf August 13, 2008 at 5:24 am

    I think I’m missing something…how is the tree form actually manipulated? It’s woven through a framework? So what is the frame or formwork made out of that’s used to shape the vegetation (and doesn’t that defeat the purpose if a structure has to be built in order to form the exterior planting wall structure)? I want to like this idea but am looking for some clarification…

  23. Cantankerous August 8, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Nice idea but why not look at using something like bamboo which is much faster growing.

    I still prefer the EcoDome igloo concept I saw at the UN World Habitat Awards http://www.calearth.org/EcoDome.htm.

  24. Emma St. June 29, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    As a student of interior design, I love the idea. I’m learning a bit about green design in my community college program (it’s unavoidable these days) though not nearly enough. The level of info we receive is neither radical enough nor particularly truthful. DuPont and vinyl wallcovering companies call themselves “green” because they’ve jumped through certification hoops to earn the designation.

    There are many levels of green to be adressed including preservation and/or containment and/or recycling of what already exists. May Terraform make rapid progress with their radical plans. With fundamentally practical plans such as theirs, we will not need designers or architects- only engineers who understand the natural environmet and artists. Design will arise naturally from the function of useful items.

  25. Betty Yuan April 14, 2008 at 4:30 am

    The picture seems beautiful.But it\’s still on the ground. Maybe it can fly in the sky. Besides i can not imagine living in it. The trunks will grow stronger and stronger.how can it be permanently stable?
    but i do like the pic. it\’s really green.

  26. zw.l March 22, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Very creative

  27. nanotopia March 10, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Why not collaborate with Nadir Khalili? Or work with mud and trees? Cobb, adobe, earthships even.

    Surely this would fly in Hollywood.

    Check out:

    http://www.calearth.org/EcoDome.htm

  28. Mohammed Alsalami March 1, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    it is beautful green

  29. SAMUEL February 21, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Subject : Terra Form
    This is true; humans, fuel need, life need. Biological systems were more basic to ancient civilizations and understood, but in this modern society people take for instance mainstream americans do not Know what buckwheat is, and agribusiness is more focused on business.Gwinnet Georgia is an example of slipshod construction. I lived in Florida, my ex-father in law is a great man. He attracted humming birds that would come to drink from the hisbiscis ( excuss spelling) 6 inches from my head. I remember while cuting the grass it was raining in the back yard and not in the front. My love of Florida/Georgia, and life is immense. I would love to invite u to a modern georgia attic ; this is from any engineering point is stupid. These new homes are for show, fake an insult too our capabilities.

  30. Laftis February 15, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    Hello all,
    1. Will there be any leafs left when winter come?
    2. When it burn fast when it catch on fire?
    3. Bet it will be very cold in the winter, and need lot lot of oil to keep it warm.
    4. I think this project is good for WOW (War of War Craft, Nice graphic:)

  31. Luciano February 5, 2008 at 9:51 am

    This is great! But i think the genetic tecnology it will be the one that save the world.
    Genetic architecture will save the planet. Green walls, tree houses, geneticaly disegned from the seed, amazing stuff. So we need more genetics students in the world now!

  32. daniel January 14, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    when i clicked on the embedded video on this web page at inhabitat.com, YouTube reported it is no longer available. however, i found it at:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=7yLCmIeGovs

  33. DarkE January 10, 2008 at 10:28 pm
  34. Orian January 7, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    YEAH man!! This is the future! (Or at least another step towards it). Nothing makes me happier than to see good folks caring about mother earth.
    These Israelis really are wonderful, aren’t they ;]

  35. Jea January 5, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Why do they attempt these projects in Beverly Hills? Get some donated land in the middle of no where and DON”T ASK PERMISSION. Just do it and say “it was a surprise!”

  36. Tim December 16, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    grouse house concept… hope the trees are okay with getting kinky

    Would work really well with a septic tank too because than all your poos and wees would fertilise your house.

    the trouble is these kinds of structures have a knack for growing and changing and losing limbs and so forth… so don’t expect it to be static. If you don’t mind the occasional shower of clay and straw than ees no problemo… but otherwise could be worth heading more in the traditional japanese direction with walls… expect them to be temporary, make them low resource.

    The concept has merrit but unfortunately again just looks like architects playing with bourgeiose ideas to gain credibility. Is their money really going to be made on designing stuff like this, or does it just get them industry cred so they can build more unsustainable condoms?

    I respect environmentaly friendly design, but we do need to indulge in a little critical realism occasionally. Maybe one day this site will be as much dedicated to green builders and construction workers as it is to designers… because until this stuff becomes mainstream, it remains pipedream.

    Frustrated but impressed!

    Tim

  37. mary December 14, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    hi may friend
    i need to help
    im student in architecture in iran
    my project in this term is:designing sustainable architecture & architecture andenviroment: & green architecture
    but in iran we dont have enufh refrenses
    i want some picture &some dvd $ some informatoin about it
    can u help me?
    tjanks very much
    and im sorry aboute this leeter because my english is not good

  38. Yako December 9, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    I can’t believe how they work out those trees. It is marvelous.

  39. ...sitting in a tree K.... November 27, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    We grow to love our Treehouse as it cultivated into our abode… Colourful

  40. Marc November 26, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    In the virgin islands (St. Thomas) I lived for a while in a tree house that used the mangrove tree as its frame. this house was huge. Big as any condo you see now. Wasn’t prone to any real disease as mangrove tree are tough and grow like weeds. It was very cool.
    Marc

  41. links for 2007-11-24 &l... November 23, 2007 at 9:24 pm

    [...] Grow a Treehouse with Terreform As part of the ecological architecture nonprofit Terreform, Mitchell Joachim, Lara Greden, and Javier Arbona designed this living treehouse in which the dwelling itself merges with its environment and nourishes its inhabitants. (tags: architecture building design environment green technology video) [...]

  42. Water Saver November 21, 2007 at 10:41 pm

    What a cool idea. You could build an estate with these and claim the carbon credits at the same time!

  43. crap November 20, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    holy moly! 15 – 20 year to grow a how! no thank

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

    [...] (more…) [...]

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