Shingled Mounds for Treehouse Inspiration

so sorry. goodbye
Photo credit Lyndon Douglas via designboom

Radical Nature: Art and Architecture for a Changing Planet 1969-2009 is a show at the Barbican Art Gallery, London. The central theme is ‘designers working with nature’, and provides examples from the land art movement, environmental activism, experimental architecture and utopianism.

so sorry. goodbye
One piece titled I am so sorry. Goodbye” by Heather and Ivan Morison stands out to me as a visually appealing piece. Brief description of the piece from the gallery site:

I am so sorry. Goodbye explores the relationship between the built environment and nature. The double-domed pavilion takes its inspiration from the structures built by utopian communities in the west coast of the US in the 1970s. Designed as a tea house, I am so sorry. Goodbye provides a place of rest and shelter, where one is served hibiscus tea, a beverage popular in various parts of the world and thought to have medicinal properties. A transparent dome at the top of the structure alludes to a spaceship or futuristic aircraft, a vehicle which might transport one away from a time or place of catastrophe.

I make mention of this sculpture because I think it illustrates a great potential method for treehouse building. ‘I am so sorry. Goodbye’ may have been built on the ground, but I can easily see it positioned on a platform high up in the trees. There are other reasons to consider an approach like this for a treehouse, too:

  • The unique organic and rounded look of the merged spheres, along with the haphazard cedar shakes, creates a semi-chaotic camouflage pattern that blends well into the surrounding woods.
  • The geometric form itself is an ideal way to optimize livable space within the irregular constraints of large tree branches and trunks. Rigid cubes don’t fit well within the tree canopy; however, the organic shapes determined by improvisational methods (similar to cellular growth) can readily optimize to and accommodate whatever space is available.
  • A geodesic dome also has very desirable qualities from an engineering point of view: The structure is both strong and lightweight which are ideal characteristics for building structures supported high up in the trees. And the dome structure can be supported equally well from various points along the sides, top, and bottom, too which makes bracing and attachment to the trees easier.
  • Lastly, the feel of the space inside has a unique organic quality: The lack of angularity, no dominant lines from pillars or beams, and the natural diffusion of light all make for a very warm and refreshing space. And this has an impact on people’s habitable enjoyment.

Some potential improvements for a treehouse application based on this design may include alternate exterior finishing techniques. For example, the use of a waterproof membrane under the shakes would make it more weather resistant and allow one to insulate and finish the inside of the walls. Or, other more flexible materials such sections of recycled car tire may be used in place of the cedar shakes. I’d also explore the possibility of wrapping the sphere right around under the bottom of the platform to create trap-door accessible storage spaces.

Very inspiring none-the-less and this is currently on the top of my list for future treehouse designs.