Now Starting: A 60-Year Project To Build A Dome Using Living Trees

For a weeklong workshop, Visiondivision began an architecture project that will take 60 years to grow.

There’s no question that technology has eroded our patience. Can you imagine waiting a full minute for your dial-up modem to connect to the Internet today? In architecture terms, that’s like waiting 60 years for a project to be completed. Which is exactly what the Stockholm-based studio Visiondivision has planned for the Politecnico di Milano campus: a canopy of trees that will take six decades–and a ginormous green thumb–to build.


“If we can be patient with the building time, 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,” the architects write on their website. During a weeklong workshop, they taught students the techniques–such as bending, braiding, pruning, and grafting–required to construct a study retreat, aptly called “The Patient Gardener,” from only plants and trees.

The main structure is a dome of 10 Japanese cherry trees, which are planted around a temporary tower that acts as a guide. Once the bent trees touch the tower, they will be redirected into an hourglass shape, the top of which will become a second level for reading and lounging and accessed by stairs of branches. The architects even devised furniture made from greenery, including a chair that seems to have organically sprung from the ground but is actually a cardboard form covered in soil and draped in grass.

Visiondivision left behind instructions for future generations of gardeners. “In about 80 years from now,” the architects write, “the Politecnico di Milano campus will have a fully grown building and the students will hopefully have proud grandchildren that can tell the story of the project for their friends and family.” That’s a far cry from the instant gratification we’ve come to expect; rather, it’s the long view we need to take when measuring our impact on the planet.

About the author

A former editor at such publications as WIRED, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Fast Company, Belinda Lanks has also written for The New York Times Magazine, The New York Observer, Interior Design, and ARTnews.