Though architecture inspired by nature is nothing new, modern architects constantly seek new and exciting iterations of biophilic design. Now more than ever, bridging the gap between the great outdoors and indoors includes regenerative, or even living, natural building materials. Striking feats of biophilic architecture connect people to nature through one of the Earth’s most enduring displays of life: trees.
Combining living trees with innovative real tree bark products such as Bark House’s white birch wall coverings, white pine leather panels, and three‑dimensional poplar pole end panels in architecture projects, allows architects to thoughtfully connect people with nature in every aspect of the design.
From trees sprouting out of concrete walls in Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay to the “vertical forest skyscraper” in Lausanne, Switzerland, arboreal architecture has taken root around the world.
Benefits of Using Trees in Architecture
While it is common for interior designers to connect people to nature with the addition of botanical elements—potted plants, floral displays, or even fiber art wall hangings entwined with branches or pine cones—architects have the power to bake these elements into the very structure itself. There are several practical benefits to nature‑inclusive architecture that incorporates trees:
- Improved air quality. Living plants and trees built into the very footprint of a building infuse the air with a consistent stream of oxygen.
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Tree‑centric architecture can reduce the need for air conditioning through thoughtfully chosen shady areas.
- Better acoustics. Bark panels, stands of trees, and swathes of ivy or other lush greenery acting as “living walls” can be placed to either absorb outside sounds or amplify sounds (such as in a rehearsal space or concert hall). When trees are combined with natural water features, the effect is particularly soothing.
- Natural serenity. Breathing in the sights and sounds of nature does wonders for both mental clarity and creative inspiration. As Robert Lewis Stevenson said, “It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”
4 Ways to Incorporate Trees into Your Next Design
Crafting a seamless connection to nature can be as simple as tree‑lined indoor/outdoor transitional spaces or as striking as a tree bark‑wrapped front entrance.
Find inspiration in these four remarkable projects that have used trees to shift modern architecture toward smarter, more sustainable biophilic design.
- A “hotel within a garden.” In 2015, the PARKROYAL on Pickering in Singapore won the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) Urban Habitat Award. The hotel was designed with an inside‑out approach that made the building feel like a garden first, structure second. Trees and plants were incorporated along the entire outside of the building to position the property as a 5‑star oasis within the city.
- A bark‑wrapped entrance. A shared home and office space designed by Meditch Murphey Architects used Bark House Poplar Panels in both the interior and exterior of the property. Most notable was the use of sustainable bark panels that curve around the rounded building entrance, reflecting the natural curve of a tree while offering visitors a raw, textured connection to the surrounding forest.
- A structure‑encircled tree. According to SmartCitiesDive, the stunning Fuji Kindergarten, designed by Yui and Takaharu Tezuka, “highlights nature as a teacher every day” by offering children an opportunity to explore the heights of a tree through the open‑air playground structure built around the trunk.
- Rooftop gardens. Though no longer revolutionary, public rooftop gardens make forest access available to city dwellers in danger of being completely disconnected from nature: residents of ultra‑urban skyscrapers.
Use of trees in architecture is an opportunity that architects are taking advantage of, thanks to the availability of natural wood wall treatments and products that create a lasting legacy.