Working as a contract designer for Invivo Design (brainchild of inventors Ezekiel Golan and Yael Stav) I had the pleasure of designing and constructing a prototype aeroponic root growth chamber at TerreformONE studios in Brooklyn, NYC.
The concept is a little technical, but the outcome is a living tree which follows a user-determined path. Essentially, by growing a tree with its roots suspended in a dark, misty chamber, it can be convinced to stay soft and pliable. After it (quickly) reaches a significant length, the tree is planted in soil with 90% of this soft root exposed and routed around a form or template. In a few months, the exposed root transforms into woody trunk, becoming tough with lignin and self-supporting in its predetermined shape: a faster, more scalable espalier.
By ganging young trees together in a bundle, years of growth can be condensed as they merge into one. Possibilities multiply with internal formwork: a permanently embedded conduit carrying water, electricity, or another utility within the structure.
My job was to get an efficient prototype growth chamber ready fast, so that the talented designers and architects at Terreform ONE could start to play with real trees and push applications. I'm proud to say that the automatic water cycle runs at only 35W average power, while pumping a nutritious mist to grow 5' tall trees in a matter of a couple months. Matt Mitchell @ TerreformONE is currently operating and extending the original prototype, and developing the concept towards the eco-futurist utopia.