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.
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.