The proposal of Rotterdam-based Bureau of Architecture, Research, and Design (BOARD) entitled “ATREE?” has been selected out of 336 projects for the final phase of the European Competition of Architecture, Design, Realisations in Eco and Agro-Materials organized by Region Picardie (France) and the Free State of Thüringen (Germany). As one of 22 finalists, BOARD’s awarded entry is currently exhibited in the Chantilly Castle in France.
We received a detailed project description for the proposal “ATREE?” from BOARD:
Imagine a project that does not need to be constructed, because – being a tree - it grows by itself. Such a project only needs to be planted. Therefore the transportation of the materials for such a project is very energy efficient, because as a matter of fact, no major transportation of materials is actually necessary. The only materials to be transported are the seeds for planting. And the only energy spent is to prevent hastiness and impetuousness as such a project needs a lot of time and patience to grow.
Energy Efficient Life Cycles
But this proposed project is not only a tree. It is a living installation that is made out of several trees. It can be used for pleasure, relaxation or as an exhibition space. Once the seeds have been planted, the installation takes around thirty months to grow into its final form. Nevertheless it can be used in several playful ways already during the process of growth. The tree used for the installation is a fast growing willow that reaches a height of more than two meters in only one year. As the proposed project is a living installation, its life cycle and ecobalance is very efficient as it does not cause any environmental or social damages. To weave the willow into different shapes for different living installation, the bioplastic Polyamide 11, made of castor plant vegetal oil, can be used as a mold. The molds can easily be transported by bike to the site and fixed simply to the trees.
Energy Efficient Materials and Prototype Development
Polyamide 11 works well for the purpose of shaping the willows, because it has a very high mechanical, temperature and time resistance. If this project gets awarded a prototype grant, several different shapes of molds can be developed, tested and manufactured. Circular molds for example could easily be produced and used to create simple living installations. The only elements that would be necessary for such simple installations would be several bioplastic circles, several bioplastic fixations and some willow seeds. It has to be tested how many fixations are necessary to get the desired shapes. All the bioplastic elements should preferably be transparent to become almost invisible among the trees.
Renewable Energy Sources
If, one day, the installation is not being used any longer, its trees can be used as a renewable energy source. Willows have a large carbon mitigation potential and they grow fast. Therefore they are of great interest for biomass or biofuel production in particular. All the bioplastic elements that have been used to weave the willows, can be fully recycled and reused for other purposes such as tubes, wires or all kind of electronic components. By using differently shaped bioplastic molds, all kind of different patterns can be produced.
This project will contribute to sustainable development as it refers to potential possibilities. It should be pursued to create landmarks that have the power to gain the interest of politicians and all kind of other people to stimulate imitation effects. Several of the living installations - located in a public park for example - create easily recognizable and accessible structures that showcase the possibilities of the usage of bioplastic. By planting the willows in circles, three-dimensional installations appear that transform and trigger the perception of a space. Several installations can be placed together in a park, where they are linked with landscape to form land art. By making such materials accessible for the public at all times, they will lose their abstraction as they can be seen, touched and smelled by the visitors.
This project will also contribute to sustainable development as it emphasizes the importance of patience when it comes to nature. If people continue impatiently to consume the natural resources of this planet, it will be difficult to enable the earth to continue supporting human life as we know it. Therefore, patience is an important factor for the wellbeing of the natural world and the responsible use of natural resources. Thus this project could become a symbol for the necessity to accept the long point of view and of being patient with the slowness of nature. It will show what beautiful things can appear if people remain patient.
The bioplastic molds could be produced in collaboration with the company PolymerMat e.V. in Thuringia on one hand and CRITT Polymères in Picardy on the other. The idea of the living installations could be presented to the owners and municipalities of several public accessible parks of the two regions. Ten parks in Thuringia and ten parks in Picardy could be chosen to begin with. For those parks and with the help of their owners, twenty living installations could be realized. In that way this production strategy could be at the same time a sales strategy. The bioplastic molds and the seeds for the willows could be transported by bike from the companies to the different parks. The parks close by can be reached by bike in around two hours and the parks that are located further away in around eight hours. The planting of the seeds and the fixing, changing and removing of the bioplastic molds could be celebrated as public art performances.