Representing living architecture through skeleton reconstruction from point clouds

Wilfrid Middleton, Qiguan Shu, Ferdinand Ludwig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Living architecture, changing in structure with annual growth, requires precise, regular characterisation. However, its geometric irregularity and topological complexity make documentation using traditional methods difficult and presents challenges in creating useful models for mechanical and physiological analyses. Two kinds of living architecture are examined: historic living root bridges grown in Meghalaya, India, and contemporary ‘Baubotanik’ structures designed and grown in Germany. These structures exhibit common features, in particular network-like structures of varying complexity that result from inosculations between shoots or roots. As an answer to this modelling challenge, we present the first extensive documentation of living architecture using photogrammetry and a subsequent skeleton extraction workflow that solves two problems related to the anastomoses and varying nearby elements specific to living architecture. Photogrammetry was used as a low cost method, supplying detailed point clouds of the structures’ visible surfaces. A workflow based on voxel-thinning (using deletion templates and adjusted p-simplicity criteria) provides efficient, accurate skeletons. A volume reconstruction method is derived from the thinning process. The workflow is assessed on seven characteristics beneficial in representing living architecture in comparison with alternative skeleton extraction methods. The resulting models are ready for use in analytical tools, necessary for functional, responsible design.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1549
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


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