Architectural theory is a subject with many components. It plays an important role in shaping the future as it feeds from the past. Some various theories and trends have become widespread in the past and affect all over the world. Fab tree hab is a work developed and presented by MIT designers Mitchell Joachim, Lara Greden, and Javier Arbona. This theory has been shaped by the eco-centric idea while analyzing the observations of the past. Moreover, the Fab Tree Hab theory has brought a new perspective to today’s architecture and future scenarios.
Behind the thought that constitutes the following architectural theory is the basis of environmentalist and eco-centric behavior. Before the current climate crisis and today’s environmentalist perception occurred, this philosophy, which defends the necessity of human essence and behavior to be in harmony with nature, started with the concept of ‘being in the state of nature’, which was argued by Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
According to Rousseau, man can unite with nature and live in a “natural” way, that is, free from his own interests and material concerns. In Rousseau’s words, “man disrupts the balance of nature.” People who were inspired by Rousseau and reflect the present-day basis of eco-centric behavior include names such as Thoreau, Emerson, and Whitman. Their works such as poems, articles, and books allow these theories to come to the present day before the sustainable architectural theory has emerged. Emerson and Thoreau argue that man and nature must live in harmony.
Emerson quotes the following words related to nature in his book Nature:
“The poet, the painter, the sculptor, the musician, the architect, seek each to concentrate this radiance of the world on one point, and each in his several works to satisfy the love of beauty which stimulates him to produce.”
These thoughts actually argue that the essence of the human being is to be inspired by nature and only by this means perfect harmony can be achieved. Thoreau, who has similar thoughts, has built a cabin for himself to live in nature in order to develop and experience his thoughts further. Thoreau aimed to make a cabin that is minimal and compatible with nature by using natural materials that can be found easily in the environment.
During his experience in this cabin, he watched nature, recorded every observation in his diary while he was fascinated by nature. Thoreau has written two books in his cabin. In one of his books, Walden, Thoreau mentions that people will have a very harmonious and poetic life with the universe if every person builds their home in the way just as birds build their own nest and with the least damage to nature.
In fact, these thoughts, along with their literary and philosophical ideologies, have inspired environmentalist movements, philosophers, artists, and architects all over the world.
It can be said that some architectural movements (art nouveau, arts and crafts, etc.) had the idea of being in harmony with nature. These movements were sometimes inspired by nature as a form, and sometimes they were shaped as they respect nature. However, these inspirations were usually made morphological. Some buildings were inspired by nature and represented the idea with ornaments, details, or geometric forms, and some of them were inspired by nature as structure.
The environmentalism approach, which has started to be taken into consideration with the climate crisis, environmental pollution, and crowded cities getting out of control, has begun to be re-examined not only in harmony with nature but also the concept of a return to nature from different perspectives. The naturalistic approach in architecture, which means examining and applying the causes and formation of form, rather than formal references and imitation, is very different from the visual inspirations of the past. Analysis such as mathematical systems underlying harmony in nature and imitation of nature’s production state is made and adapted more easily thanks to technology.
Despite the separation of nature and technology in the past, technology, which is used as a means of getting closer to nature, has led to the formation of the concept of bio-architecture. With these developments and today’s concerns, the designers started to rethink the concept of today’s cities.
Fab tree hab theory was put forward by Mitchell Joachim, Lara Greden, and Javier Arbona, MIT designers and architects, and is based on these thoughts and also the vision of how habitats can change in harmony with the ecosystem. Mitchell Joachim argues that now bringing a new perspective to the green building perception of the past, how homes can become alive.
A gardening technique called pleaching has been adopted as a method. This technique refers to a way to intertwine plant branches along a frame to create a wall and fence. The project, which uses the pleaching technique, which is a way of growing trees in rows connected to each other, is aimed to carry heavy loads by using trees such as Elm, Live Oak, and Dogwood as structures. The internal structure is created by using clay and straw cobs as building materials, as well as these trees. The fact that the materials will constantly develop and grow, means that the project house will also grow continuously.
Bringing a new perspective to the concept of sustainability, MIT designers emphasize the importance of the project’s lack of negative impact on the environment and living architecture. In this project, in which the geometric productions and the experiments of the project continue with the new studies carried out in the biology laboratories of the group in Brooklyn, how each element of the structure from isolation to structure can be made more natural is examined.
Depending on the environmental and climate effects, approximately 5 years are required for each of these houses to grow. Mitchell Joachim, the architect, states in one of his interviews, ‘Instead of being just environmentally friendly, the structures would naturally blend in with surrounding ecosystems’ (2007). Of course, Joachim adds that they have some deficiencies that need to be resolved before they are offered to the market and that these houses will also accommodate systems such as water collection and recycling.
The combination of this ecological approach and architectural design brings people closer to solving the problems of today’s cities to a large extent. While the current damages of cities to the ecosystem are prevented, also the idea of transforming cities into living ecosystems rather than non-living machines is extremely important and emerges as the architectural philosophy of the future.
Post-Carbon City-State study, one of the works of Terraform One studio, a non-profit group founded by Mitchell Joachim, is examined, it is possible to see that the underlying ideas are fed by the Fab Tree Hab theory. In this study, what kind of a city New York will turn into in the future has been designed.
In the study, the existence of new forms of production and urbanization with the increase of limited resources and human needs are observed. It is planned to establish a system where electronic and technological components are used, vehicles are used where carbon production is reduced to zero, and where vertical farming systems are located in destroyed buildings, waste is re-examined, transformed and all needs are met within the borders of the city.
While improving the life quality of the city by about 70% increase of the trees, it is aimed to meet the nutritional needs of the city with vertical aquaponic agriculture. This study, which aims at a minimum or zero impact on the environment, is presented as a solution to the growing cities that eventually have to battle with crises.
The concept of sustainability and its advocates adopt the idea that not only green buildings should be used, but also resilient buildings that are compatible with nature, with the aim of creating zero waste and self-sufficient structures should be considered while buildings and cities are growing. By taking advantage of the opportunities offered by technology, it is now possible to create structures that can produce their own water and air and not harm the environment in the construction of newly discovered building materials.
It is not only self-sufficient but also the design of the buildings that feed its environment as well as nature. While the Fab tree hab theory emphasizes the concept of ‘an edible house’, it also mentions meeting natural needs such as oxygen production. Although it remains on a theoretical and experimental scale today, the idea of designing with nature, the shaping of buildings and cities by using the components of nature, is expected to become widespread in the future.
The formation of healthier and happier cities can be observed with cities being smart and resilient, minimizing carbon production, developing green infrastructures, bio-integrated buildings, and renewable lifestyles. As a suggestion of the fab tree hab architectural theory, learning and applying bio-integrated systems and designs together with technology seems to be an important way to create living cities and revitalize the ecosystem.
Mitchell Joachim. Smart cities for 11 billion people. (TED)
Mitchell Joachim. Dost build your home, grow it. (TED)
Interview, The Vancouver Sun, 2007, Grow your own home: ‘Fab tree hab’.