ISSUE 1  |  A New Year

City Gardens: MINI Terrariums from Brooklyn

January 09, 2016 6:10 PM

BY Gillian Carson

From his Brooklyn-based studio designer Huy Bui co-created Plant-in City, a project to pair plants with sleek wood and metal to create a new kind of 21st-century terrarium. His latest venture is a new collection of stackable Plant-in MINI terrariums that also are monuments to urban living.

Photography by Huy Bui except where noted.

plant-in city

Above: Bui carefully places plants into one of his mini terrariums. Photograph by Freunde von Freunden.

Each terrarium is handmade, and Bui sees his planters as both art and places to house plants. “On one hand, it is a single object or sculpture for plants,” he explains. “On the other hand, they are a single unit that fits into a large whole, which can be stacked vertically. These units are like pre-fab homes, but for plants.”

plant-in city

Above: Bui’s latest series of MINI planters are built in such a way that they can be stacked together to make larger structures. Configured using 13 separate components, a MINI 13 City Block is $1,150 from Home Made.


Above: Made of steel, a Mini II Steel Terrarium is $275 from Home Made.

The wooden terrariums are made from cut-offs with live edges or visible bark. With an intricate, mathematical composition they interlock in the same way as Lego. Each structure has distinct architectural elements. One may feature tiny cross-bracing, another expertly cantilevered planes.

“We source only local NY State wood that has been sustainable harvested,” says Bui.

plant-in city

Above: A MINI II Mobius Terrarium with Corten Steel Finish is $325.

plant-in city urban terrariums Huy Bui Brooklyn ; Gardenista

Above: The steel terrariums come in a variety of finishes including a natural polished finish, oxidized, black patina, and an extra special copper-plated finish.

“Our steel versions, use the exact same dimensions as the wooden ones, but have different structural advantages and disadvantages and are made by a local steel fabricator,” explains Bui.

plant-in city

Above: One of Bui’s most popular pieces is the Air Terrarium with a black patina ($400). It features a steel frame with a wired web that holds an air plant. He thinks that it’s the clean lines of the structure juxtaposed with the obtuse angles of the web and the organic form of the plant that make it such a sought-after piece.

“There’s sophistication in simplicity,” he adds.

plant-in city

Above: A Plant-in City  Lowline edition, Mad Scientist with LED lights. This terrarium was a collaboration with The Lowline Underground Park:  A proposal of an urban green space in Lower Manhattan.

Bui’s interest in the micro-housing movement also inspired him to create the modular aspect of the Plant-in MINI series. “I love capsule and modular housing systems,”  says Bui.