The term „Baubotanik” was developed at the Institute for architectural theory (IGMA), University of Stuttgart and stands for a basic approach to engineer with living plants. It is a construction method that provides a technique to let buildings arise out of the interoperation of technical joining and vegetable growth. Thereto living and non-living machine elements are joined in a way to make them intergrow to a vegetable-technical compound structure: Single plants merge into a new and bigger overall organism and technical elements are included into the vegetable structure during the period of growth.
This at first glance merely technical basic approach is the consequence of a desire that always appeared in history of modern architecture and which articulated itself in various ways: the “vivification” of architecture.
“Living Plant Construction” buildings comply with this desire word-for-word. Since the plants pronouncement of live turns to the pronouncement of live for the whole building one can term them as living buildings: In springtime it is not simply a plant that sprouts – it is a building; and in harvest it is not a tree shedding its leafes – it is a building. By using plants as an elementary part of the construction instead of simply using them attributive the plants spryness transferns successful onto the building.
"Living Plant Construction" comprehends plants or parts of plants as machine elements or perhaps a kind of "living semifinish". These are put together to become a constructional unit and bond at the same time to an overall organism. Therewith the building as well as the vegetable organism is being designed. That means that the skeletal structure of a "Living Plant Construction Plant" is being framed – and in contrast to the continuous growth of an ordinary tree it arises through an act of building in direct relationship to the aspired size. Nevertheless the process of development does not end with the constructional completion. The primary flexible and sensitive "semifinish" turnes through the subsequent growing process into an viable, solid and resilient plant structure.
At the very beginning “Living Plant Construction” buildings depend occasionally upon technical facilities which enable the growth and secure the sturdiness. Nevertheless immediately after the constructional completion they evolve spacial and sensuous qualities one only experiences in full-grown trees. Thereby the “treetop” can be designed as a space that allows various exploitation – for example in shape of a three-dimensional park.
Altogether “Living Plant Construction” is not just a plant technology – furthermore it is a modern vision of the urban: It faces the question how to create adequate green areas in closely put up city centers or fast developing metropolises. On minimum footprint it offers the opportunity to create “Green Areas” which are usable in next to no time and anticipate many ecological qualities of vintage trees.
Buildings made of living plants play a central role in the history of the European culture of gardening and they are found in many different cultural and historical contexts. The Baubotanik is rooted in and trace back to an aging bioengineering technique, which is practiced by the Khasi, a tribe in the Indian rainforest: Using a cleverly-devised method, they channel aerial roots of the Indian rubber tree over rivers and enlace them to a net-like structure. In the course of time, this structure grows to a robust and accessible construction – a sort of living bridge.
Baubotanik can therefore be seen as an attempt to transform this approach into a modern building technique. Findings of botanical research provide a basis to analyze the possibilities of building and designing with living plants systematically and to develop construction methods that take advantage of modern gardening technologies.
Not least “Living Plant Construction” is a horticultural construction method: the vegetable construction material does grow in plant nurseries and the structures require horticultural care all it’s life. They always demand a certain amount of attention. Should they run wild the structure forfeits its character and looses its usability.
Therefore during the planning stage it is already sought after a horticultural way of thinking and acting to enable that constructive and architectural objective goals reconcile with requirements and regularities of the vegetable growth. It is determinant that no ready-made building is being planned; instead there is an initial configuration and a development process being conceptualized. And since different growth stages allow different forms of utilisation it is part of the concept also to frame the use as a process that depends directly on the growth.
A “Living Plant Construction” structure adapts its growth permanently to environmental factors of the site and is able to repair minor damages autonomously. The result of this adaptive process is a shape caused out of the conditions and incidents that in process of time underwent the structure. Due to this “autobiographic form-finding” each building, every detail even, develops individual characteristics and – just like an old tree – turns into a personality.
Therefore the actual shape of a future building depends on a series of mostly unpredictable events and facts. Forecasts are possible to make, but limited to rather common predications. And just as it applies to the weather forecast: The farther one wants to look to the future, the more speculative the statements turns out. Therefore “Living Plant Construction” buildings resemble the weather: Again and again they astonish anew.