Which is Goodier: The street or a tree platform?

I found this image on Flickr by “hugovk” in Manchester UK. Its a simple platform in a tree with ladder rungs nailed into the trunk. A minimalist’s dream.

At first glance I viewed it as a tree house made for kids because it is located in front of a playground. And it probaby is given the size of the platform and the weight bearing capacity of the branches.

But then, the shopping cart and the street sign got me thinking about this from the street person’s point-of-view. It reminded me of an event earlier in my day, when I saw a homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk.

He was wrapped in a sleeping bag nestled in the space between a bus shelter and a building. Cardboard tucked underneath and plastic draped overtop to buffer the harshness. It was a hard, cold, and vulnerable place for anyone to be.

The coincidence of these two events got me thinking: Where in this picture would you sleep if you had no other options? Would a minimal platform like this be a desirable shelter in the same way that a nook on the street is.

What is the difference between sleeping in the street and sleeping in the trees? I’m struck by the recognition that the tree platform, and the sidewalk, are a roughly equivilant low standard of shelter. But somehow there is difference between struggling against the elemental hardships in a primative tree platform, compared to struggling against the elements in a public space.

It has something to do with isolation, I think. To be isolated up in a tree is somehow intentional, like its elevation above the ground makes it a chosen place of physical retreat; whereas on the street, there is no physical isolation — it is a retreat acheived through an intentional social disconnection and it has a dehumanizing consequence.

This makes me wonder if tree platforms would be a viable option of humanitarian aid. I think of some of the homeless who are diligent recycling collectors. And, I wonder if they would make equally good tree curators if permitted to build an isolated platform in the branches.