New book - Low Carbon Cities: Transforming Urban Systems with Mitchell Joachim

Mitchell Joachim, "Future ecological design as urbaneering: new positions on city-making without scale," in Low Carbon Cities: Transforming Urban Systems, Steffen Lehmann (ed). Routledge, 2014.


The Guardian Sustainable Business: Tiny houses, micro-apartments and future urban homes with Terreform ONE

Are tiny houses and micro-apartments the future of urban homes? by Rachael Post

Mitchell Joachim, a New York University associate professor and co-founder of Terreform ONE, aims to create a wholly new concept for micro-dwelling by rethinking the interaction of ecology, botany and design. This version of the childhood dream hideaway is not a house in a tree, however; instead, it’s a house made of living trees. Among Terreform ONE’s recent designs are tree spheres called Willow Balls. They are living treehouses just 8 feet (2.43 meters) in diameter. Joachim considers them semi-permanent, and says they can be used as seasonal spaces like gazebos or other outdoor recreational spaces. They’re made by growing ficus trees over a scaffolding frame similar to what gardeners do when they use pliable living plants to create archways. Once the fast-growing ficus trees cover the sphere, the scaffolding can be removed and re-used with another set of plants.
While the living-plants portion of the sphere is natural, Terreform One will manufacture the scaffoldings in Brooklyn out of wood or metal. Terreform One is currently taking orders for the scaffoldings – priced at $8,000 – and expects to put them on sale in early 2015.
The goal is to “nudge nature in its place into a geometric shape that is usable by people”, Joachim said. The design challenges the traditional idea of forestry because instead of growing trees, chopping them down and milling them into lumber to build houses, the trees transform into a house as they grow.
Acknowledging that shipping an 8 ft tree sphere through the mail is not energy-efficient, the design group is working on ways to mitigate this – perhaps by growing the sphere in place to lower the dwelling’s carbon footprint.