Natural Architecture


a row of houses made of tree trunks and vines

Constructing buildings using traditional techniques isn’t efficient; we should all know that by now.

There are a few companies that are making the effort to increase efficiency and reduce waste (a shameless plug – Tocci is one of those companies). 35% of landfill space in the United States is created by construction waste so why not try something different? Walking the line between architecture and art is a growing trend called natural architecture.

According to author Alesandro Rocca, there is an emerging art movement that is exploring mankind’s desire to reconnect to the earth through the built environment. Referred to as ‘natural architecture’, it aims to create a new, more harmonious, relationship between man and nature by exploring what it means to design with nature in mind. It’s a movement trying to connect us back to humanity’s roots…literally.

While we westerners see this as a ‘movement,’ communities in India have been utilizing this idea for [possibly] centuries. Using the roots of the Rubber Fig Tree, Meghalaya villagers have woven an elaborate system of living bridges, some of which could be over 500 years old. This type of construction technique isn’t for the impatient, as it can take up to 15 years for these bridges to be strong enough to sustain the weight of a human.

a bridge in India made completely of rope

In Weimr, Germany, the Auerworld Palace began “growing” in 1998. This type of architecture was planted and formed from seed; it’s living but directed by humans. The Auerworld Palace is not just for form, but also for function, as it is used for community celebrations throughout the year.

Auerworld Palace - a structure formed by roots

One of the most famous names coming from this ‘movement’ is Patrick Dougherty. He has twisted and bent nature all over the world to create sculptures, dwellings, and interior installations. Some have been living and others were created from non-living nature.

A house made by Patrick Dougherty, formed in a tree trunk and vines

Obviously, we can’t go around constructing 14-story, multi-family buildings using only willow and rubber fig trees. We can, however, begin to understand the value of nature in design and see the value of efficiency in construction. Maybe someday we can begin to think about architecture naturally. We can also support these artists and creators by enjoying the wonderful, natural world that is at our fingertips.