A parallel Worlds

Sunday March 4 2012 / Art & Design

Swedish architecture firm Visiondivision and students from the Politecnico di Milano have designed a quite incredible study retreat for the university’s campus that will take no fewer than 60 years to create.

The stunning design was born during a week-long workshop in which Visiondivision founders Anders Berensson and Ulf Mejergren, in their capacity as guest professors, introduced Politecnico students to design concepts where patience plays a key role.

The structural frame for the retreat will be 10 Japanese cherry trees planted in a circle. As they grow, the trees will bend inwards, forming a dome, because they have all been tied towards a six-metre high temporary wood structure in the centre acting as a ‘guide’ tower. The trunks will then continue growing upwards and outwards, so that the final result is a remarkable hour-glass shaped retreat.


Four of the trees will form two pairs of natural stairs to the upper level, with the growth of their branches guided by wires to form steps. Branches will also eventually be grafted into the structure for added strength.

“If we can be patient when building, we can reduce the need for transportation, waste of material and different manufacturing processes, simply by helping nature grow in a more architectonic and useful way,” say Berensson and Mejergren.

“There are different methods and tools to guide and control the growth of trees and plants: Bending, twisting, pruning, grafting, braiding and weaving. Controlling the amount of water and light the trees receive is another way.

“We used almost all of these techniques in our creation on the Politecnico di Milano campus, which involved creating a structural system for the building and stairs, as well as furniture all made out of trees, plants or grass.”

Indeed, the ground floor of the retreat will boast two easy chairs made out of grass. These will be put together using a custom made cardboard structure, shaped for maximal relaxation and painted with a protective coating so that it can be filled with soil and draped with grass.

Of course, all that hard studying outdoors will sharpen appetites, and a dining table and chairs have been duly incorporated into the design.

The table is made out of slender wooden pieces with strings in the structure forming a skeleton through which hedras – wood-climbing plants – can grow and later take over the structure completely.

Plumb trees form the chairs; visitors will be able to sit down on the lowest fork of their branches, which in turn will be guided into canopies, so you can munch on the delicious fruit that the very ‘chair’ produces.

In fact, different fruit trees will be grafted into the cherry trees as well so that students can sample a variety of fruits while relaxing in the canopy!

“Together with the students, we worked out a maintenance plan and simple instructions for future gardeners that should make the project work,” say Berensson and Mejergren.

They add: “In about 80 years from now, the Politecnico di Milano campus will have a fully grown retreat and the students will hopefully have proud grandchildren that can tell the story of the project for their friends and family.”

For more information on the Patient Gardener and other projects by Visiondivision, please visit: www.visiondivision.com/

Suggested by
Maximilian Büsser