House designs

Big ambitions: three sophisticated treehouse designs

On the outskirts of Bremen, Germany, architect Andreas Wenning created a barrel-shaped building out of zinc, hung it from a giant oak tree and supported it with four steel support beams. Two decks rise up to the structure, and the interior is as sophisticated as any contemporary building. Among other features, there is an oval window seat in gray felt and white oak where young and old can sit to contemplate the forest and dream their respective dreams.

Treehouses are Wenning’s specialty. His work for his company Baumraum ranges from small cabins for children such as those you may have played in as a child – although his versions are cubic and modernist, wrapped in white, green or pink cement panels – to retreats for adults for hotels and individuals. clients. And he’s not the only designer creating elevated getaways that both capture childlike wonder and answer the growing call to build vacation spaces that can withstand rising waters. Relaxing among the branches has never looked more appealing.

Andreas Wenning treehouse near Bremen, Germany

“Who wouldn’t want to live in a treehouse,” says Portuguese architect Luis Rebelo de Andrade. “The very idea is magical.” This impulse to create something fantastic was the reason he built two in a century-old private resort in northern Portugal. When visitors arrive after an hour’s drive from Lisbon, the Tree Snake Houses, as they are called, greet them with an elevated walkway. The ramp leads into a hardwood forest, the ground getting further and further away as you approach the main faceted structure. Each nest-shaped room measures 300 square feet, their angled walls surrounding you in whitewashed wood; the glass frames the foliage beyond.

Tree Snake House Walkway (Ricardo Oliveira Alves)

Each of the two ‘snakes’ is a contemporary architectural statement, a long, lean volume wrapped in slate panels, with a bulky head that contains the living space. Up close, they offer a tactile experience of the forest, with furniture handcrafted from locally sourced wood. From a distance – or from the 19th century tile-roofed buildings in the center of the resort – the Serpents are entirely hidden.

“The design has to be understated here,” says Rebelo de Andrade, who collaborated on the buildings with his son, Tiago. “Trees are the queens of the park.”

A Tree Snake House (Ricardo Oliveira Alves)

The juxtaposition of art and nature is the main attraction of projects like this, which are particularly popular in Europe. The Treehotel, which started the trend when it opened in northern Sweden in 2010, offers five very distinct treehouses, with adventurous designs by different architects, deep in the woods. In the French region of Lorraine, a group of villages have helped attract people to their 5,000 hectare forest with a set of high-design projects along the Sentier du Vent. Matali Crasset, the multidisciplinary French designer, created four idiosyncratic cabins in Douglas fir, acacia and steel. They sit like flying saucers about to land, elevated on steel stilts that protect the trees and their root systems from damage or pressure.

The Treehouse by Andreas Wenning (Guillaume Ramon)

Preserving the natural environment when building these types of structures is a major concern for architects, whether the site of a treehouse is a clearing in the countryside or a dense ravine in the city.

The latter is where Seattle architect Prentis Hale built an urban version of a forest dwelling for his family. Simply called Treehouse, it is located at the end of a cul-de-sac lined with gracious single-family homes. His property is a steep, wooded slope that leads to Colman Park, a large local green space.

Prentis Hale’s Treehouse

After visiting the park several times, Hale and his wife, Tracy Edmonds, took on the challenge of building there. Their house is raised on 11 pillars, so the top of its three stories reaches street level on one side, connecting to the road via a steel bridge. Inside, however, it’s easy to forget you’re even in town.

“Since the spring, we’ve had no view,” says Hale. “We have branches and trees five feet from our windows all around. We feel enveloped, perched in the trees.

Prentis Hale’s Treehouse

Their position, immersed in a maple grove and removed from the street, gives the family a unique connection to nature, he says. The couple and their two daughters, Pippa and Maisie, keep bees on their rooftop terrace. From the living room, where cork floors and Douglas fir plywood cabinetry add to the warm, woodsy ambiance, the ambience of the forest seeps into the living space every day. In summer, the light is tinted green by all the leaves, and in autumn it is tinted yellow.

“You can see the seasons changing in the house,” he says. And for the two girls, the house is literally a playground. “They really have fun climbing – the trees, the columns in the house, anything that needs to be climbed.” It’s the freedom of living in a treehouse, perched above the ground and thankfully out of reach of the world below.

Prentis Hale’s Treehouse