1986 Live Houses by Hermann Block

In January of 1986 Hermann Block played with the idea of growing closed
rooms from woven trees. At this time some people were putting
short-living willow rods to Tippi-similar buildings. 

Hermann didn’t know of anyone who taking advantage of the annual growth rings of trees to form buildings.

He was inspirated by a 1926 author, Arthur Wiechula who wrote a book titled “Wachsende Häuser aus lebenden Pflanzen entstehend” (“Grown Houses of living Plants”). He has a firm belief that growing building with trees is achievable. Some of his reasoning comes from reading the books that had earlier inspirated Arthur Wiechula. These authors are Emanuel Swedenborg and Jakob Lorber. Hermann draws on these to motivate himself and others.

Hermann started a planting in Spring of 1986, of Alnus glutinosa which he had available, at a property of a friend. A Tree-Circle with 4 meter diameter. 150 small trees where need with the height of 100-150cms. Within a few years a wonderful summerhouse grew and now his friend uses c6 this as part of his showrooms.

Hermann continued to do plantings to test different types of trees. At his brother’s place he planted Beech/Fagus sivatica, at another friend who lives near a lake he planted Alnus glutinosa again. In 1993 Hermann accepted an offer of Konstantin Kirsch to plant a large project on Konstantin’s leased land at Forsthaus Triesch, close to Nentershausen at Bebra in Nordhessen.

It was here that Hermann was fortunate to receive 700 pieces of 150-175cm tall Tilia cordata. With these he created three overlapping circles. Each room is 5 meters in diameter. These relative long trees he wove into forms to shape the rooms.

Unfortunately due to other commitments he was unable to attend to the different projects. He thought maybe Konstantin can make the work. Unbeknown to Hermann, Konstantin also was too busy to tend to the project. Only after many years had past was Hermann able to return to the project. A frightful site greeted his eyes on arrival. From the small plants, an impressive tree-circle, but without structure. These large trees would be impossible to weave. He was determined not to lose this project, so he decided to cut down the larger trees (10-15cm) and start with the new regrowth. During this time he had assistance from some Seminar participants for the hard work.

Once Hermann settled in to his new home in South Bavaria, the opportunity arise to do a planting of Ash trees for a summer-house. The principle became to weave the trees first into the form of the dome and then weave the branches together fill in the spaces between the trees.

Having worked out system to his grown domes. He decided that he wanted to share this knowledge with a wider audience. Taking his courage in both hands he started in the public sector of the district garden close to where he lives. Teaching his knowledge and using his experience to help stimulate others. In a free area of the garden he planted two projects, one is hornbeam (Carinus betulus) and the other is maple (Acer platanoides).

This has inspired the students of Memminger Lindenschule to plant a ‘Green Classroom’. This classroom was created by planting of 500 pieces Tilia tomentosa. As a result of this building he could plant a summer-house on a playground of
hornbeam and two summer-houses of Tilia tomentosa in private gardens.

Hermann now has started growing a bench and some chairs outdoors and also in containers. The framing of the projects uses steel grid and some bars. Some of the chairs in containers are ready for sale.

He does have a book available for sale. The title is “Wir pflanzen eine Laube” (“We plant a summer-house”, ISBN 3-938175-22-2 at www.amazon.de). It is also in German. Hermann says that he has written in this book his knowledge and experience. Though out the book are numerous pictures and that it should be possible to follow the steps on how to grow their own summer-house even without the text.

He has an excerpt from his book on his website. If you can speak fluent German it would be well worth a look at his Live Houses.

His website is well worth a visit, even if it is only to look at the photos. Hermann Block’s site