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Making Furniture by Molding Growing Trees Into Chairs, Tables, and More

Wooden furniture might not strike you as particularly unsustainable for the environment. But consider all the energy wasted by growing a tree for 60 years, chopping it down, and shipping it to a factory, where it will get further pulverized only to be re-shaped into a usable piece of furniture.

Gavin Munro, a furniture designer based in Derbyshire, England, has found a way to cut out all the steps after the growing. His company, Full Grown, uses specially designed plastic frames and strategic grafting to mold young willow, oak, ash, and sycamore trees into a chair, table, mirror, or lamp. The end result is a sturdy piece of furniture made of a single, continuous piece of wood without joints or the need for any assembly.

After his initial attempts at this so-called "botanical manufacturing" were destroyed by meandering cows, Munro successfully grew a chair out of four separate trees grafted together. Now, on a 2.5 acre farm in Wirksworth Munro, 39, tends and sculpts a furniture forest of 400 trees, divided by wood type and intended object.

"In essence, it’s an incredibly simple art," he told Fast Company. "You start by training and pruning young tree branches as they grow over specially made formers. At certain points we then graft them together so that the object grows in to one solid piece." After the wood matures to be strong and stable, the piece will be harvested. And although the process is uniform, the result is distinct.

"You can make thousands of these in the same way as you can make 10, but each one is unique," Munro told the Guardian.


The first chairs, which each take about four years, should be ready for exhibition this October. You can preorder one now to be delivered mid-2017, but Munro can only make about 50 pieces a year and each one will cost you $3700—a price that reflects what is still essentially functional art. But Munro hopes Full Grown will itself grow, and perhaps inspire similar eco-friendly furniture production companies if the revolutionary method proves viable and popular. "We hope and trust that this will eventually become an improvement on current methods," he says.

All photos courtesy of Full Grown Facebook page.

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Courtesy of Fernando Artigas
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Step Inside This Stunning, Nature-Inspired Art Gallery in Tulum, Mexico
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

Upon closer inspection, this building in Tulum, Mexico, doesn’t seem like a suitable place to house an art exhibit. Everything that makes it so visually striking—its curved walls, uneven floors, and lack of drab, white backgrounds—also makes it a challenge for curators.

But none of these factors deterred Santiago Rumney Guggenheim—the great-grandson of the late famed art collector and heiress Peggy Guggenheim—from christening the space an art gallery. And thus, IK LAB was born.

“We want to trigger the creative minds of artists to create for a completely different environment,” Rumney Guggenheim, the gallery’s director, tells Artsy. “We are challenging the artists to make work for a space that doesn’t have straight walls or floors—we don’t even have walls really, it’s more like shapes coming out of the floor. And the floor is hardly a floor.”

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

IK LAB was brought to life by Rumney Guggenheim and Jorge Eduardo Neira Sterkel, the founder of luxury resort Azulik. The two properties, which have a similar style of architecture, share a site near the Caribbean coast. IK LAB may be unconventional, but it certainly makes a statement. Its ceiling is composed of diagonal slats resembling the veins of a leaf, and a wavy wooden texture breaks up the monotony of concrete floors. Entry to the gallery is gained through a 13-foot-high glass door that’s shaped a little like a hobbit hole.

The gallery was also designed to be eco-conscious. The building is propped up on stilts, which not only lets wildlife pass underneath, but also gives guests a view overlooking the forest canopy. Many of the materials have been sourced from local jungles. Gallery organizers say the building is designed to induce a “meditative state,” and visitors are asked to go barefoot to foster a more sensory experience. (Be careful, though—you wouldn't want to trip on the uneven floor.)

The gallery's first exhibition, "Alignments," features the suspended sculptures of Artur Lescher, the perception-challenging works of Margo Trushina, and the geometrical pendulums of Tatiana Trouvé. One piece by Trouvé features 250 pendulums suspended from the gallery's domed ceiling. If you want to see this exhibit, be sure to get there before it ends in September.

[h/t Dezeen]

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Engineers Have Figured Out How the Leaning Tower of Pisa Withstands Earthquakes
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iStock

Builders had barely finished the second floor of the Tower of Pisa when the structure started to tilt. Despite foundational issues, the project was completed, and eight centuries and at least four major earthquakes later, the precarious landmark remains standing. Now, a team of engineers from the University of Bristol and other institutions claims to have finally solved the mystery behind its endurance.

Pisa is located between the Arno and Serchio rivers, and the city's iconic tower was built on soft ground consisting largely of clay, shells, and fine sand. The unstable foundation meant the tower had been sinking little by little until 2008, when construction workers removed 70 metric tons of soil to stabilize the site. Today it leans at a 4-degree angle—about 13 feet past perfectly vertical.

Now researchers say that the dirt responsible for the tower's lean also played a vital role in its survival. Their study, which will be presented at this year's European Conference on Earthquake Engineering in Greece, shows that the combination of the tall, stiff tower with the soft soil produced an effect known as dynamic soil-structure interaction, or DSSI. During an earthquake, the tower doesn't move and shake with the earth the same way it would with a firmer, more stable foundation. According to the engineers, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is the world's best example of the effects of DSSI.

"Ironically, the very same soil that caused the leaning instability and brought the tower to the verge of collapse can be credited for helping it survive these seismic events," study co-author George Mylonakis said in a statement.

The tower's earthquake-proof foundation was an accident, but engineers are interested in intentionally incorporating the principles of DSSI into their structures—as long as they can keep them upright at the same time.

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