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Monday, March 23, 2020

Tree House Architecture

Architect Aibek Almassov has taken the concept of the tree house
to the extreme by fully enveloping an entire living tree.
A couple months ago I wrote highlighting developments in the area of floating homes (houseboats) and how science, technology, and postmodern standards for daily living had wrought enormous changes in virtually every aspect associated with living the "good life" on the water. Not surprisingly, the same or similar forces have brought about a like number of changes in the way we view living in our green leafy environment. No more cobbled-together hideaways of castoff lumber and cardboard high up in the branches of some stout oak tree. Our childhood treehouses have gone high tech.
The long climb to the top becomes an educational asset
rather than a tiresome trek.
This stunning architecture concept provides a creative twist on traditional treehouses (top). The imposing tubular glass house is the brainchild of A. Masow Architects, a studio based in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Designed to connect dwellers with nature, the house also simplifies everyday living by removing the unnecessary. At the heart of the structure, a large fir tree reaches to the upper fourth level. The tubular glass fa├žade envelops the tree and the minimalist living spaces. The living room contains seating and a bookshelf while the bedroom provides striking views of the dense forest. With various eco-friendly features integrated throughout, including solar panels as well as systems that collect rainwater, this glass treehouse is meant to be as green as the forest that will become its home. Climbing the stairs (above) in this unusual house could be compared with the stages of spiritual purification, enlightenment and harmonizing with the environment.

Sophisticated living, not in a tree but among them.
Situated among a cluster of large eucalyptus trees in Lorne, a small seaside town near Melbourne, Australia, this modern home is a breath of fresh air. FMD Architects worked to a brief from a family, a couple and their two adult daughters, who wanted a large living and dining space with outdoor entertaining areas. The kitchen features flush cabinetry in a gleaming white finish, and a long window running along the countertop in place of a backsplash, allowing light to stream into the space. The unusual rounded cut-outs in the gray kitchen island echo similar details found in the walls and woodwork throughout the home. In the living room, a minimal wood-burning stove seamlessly blends with the rest of the space, with built-in storage areas for firewood. A wall-mounted TV screen hangs above sleek drawers for additional storage, minimizing clutter and ensuring that not an inch of floor space is wasted.
Jungle retreat, Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica
Nestled within the dense jungle on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, this home was created by Olson Kundig, a Seattle-based architectural practice. The property is spread over three levels, each of which offers its own unique view of the forest: the ground floor is level with the forest floor, the middle floor is nestled within the foliage, and the top level soars above the canopy and boasts breathtaking views of the nearby beach. An outdoor deck provides a space to relax and reflect after a day in the surf. The huge beams here are made from cenizaro, a tree native to Costa Rica, which is larger than teak--the wood used throughout the rest of the home but has a similar grain. The owners of this 2,140-square-foot treehouse are surfers and environmental activists, and the architects ensured that their personalities and interests were reflected in their home. Designed as an open-air surfer hut, the home is solar-powered and celebrates sustainable local materials--it’s built almost entirely from teak wood harvested on-site. The home operates passively, exposed entirely to the elements in the temperate Costa Rican climate via a wood shutter system, as seen here in the beautifully minimal dining area. Slatted walls allow daylight and fresh air to enter the house, while also offering privacy for the homeowners. A rainwater collection system further reduces the house’s environmental impact.
A treehouse with an ocean view.
Built by architect Ronald Haas, this luxury treehouse in Aptos, California, is over 50 years old. Its owner, Sam Odio, bought it as a retirement home for his parents but until they move in, he rents it out to guests via Airbnb. The treehouse covers 1,200 square feet, and is split over two floors. Its exterior is made from teak and copper, with redwood beams. Inside, the home showcases a mixture of rich woods, with black walnut, mahogany, cedar, rosewood and teak, combined with bamboo floors. Light streams through the floor-to-ceiling windows in this airy living room, which is part of an open-plan space with a kitchen and dining area. It's a stylish spot to take in the breathtaking views, with Mid-century furniture and a colorful floor rug. The sliding doors that lead to this bedroom are inspired by Japanese shoji screens, used to divide rooms.

An architects own treehouse.

Perched on stilts on the side of a steep hill in a forest of bright green eucalyptus trees, this house created by Bark Architects is ideally located in the seaside town of Noosa on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. The timber, corrugated tin and glass structure appears to float above the treetops, and boasts sweeping views across the surrounding landscape. In the spacious open-plan kitchen, living room and dining area, a wood-burning stove adds coziness, while classic ‘Side Chairs’ by Harry Bertoia for Knoll surround the dining table. Hot pink seat pads on the chairs and a large artwork above the stove add considered splashes of color to this otherwise minimal space, with its crisp white kitchen cabinets and wood flooring. This room flows seamlessly onto the outdoor deck, making it the perfect spot for entertaining in summer The architects kept the environment in mind when planning the design, choosing raw woods intended to weather with time for most of the 2,690-square-foot building’s exterior. These included spotted gum and recycled messmate woods, both of which come from eucalyptus trees – a nod to the house’s stunning forest surroundings.
It's hard to tell where the forest ends and the treehouse begins.

A watery focal point
Architectural practice Atelier Victoria Migliore created this family home (above) in Frehel, Brittany in 2018. With 904-square-feet of floor space, the cozy-yet-contemporary dwelling is a light structure, raised between one and three meters off the ground on stilts. Clad in blackened wood it blends in with the surrounding pine forest. In contrast, the home’s interior is clad mostly in blonde wood, contrasting with the dark exterior. Timber beams are left exposed in the ceiling, while large windows bring the outdoors in. The home’s interior is organized around a tiled water feature, (left) which runs between the living room--complete with a stylish suspended fireplace--and the kitchen and dining area. A deck at the entryway wraps around an existing tree, turning it into a striking natural feature within the house. Amazingly, the home was constructed without felling a single tree on site. The architects carved niches into the building so as not to disturb the growth of the surrounding pines, and used 26 steel piles to make the home hover above the forest floor. Blackened wood clads the bedroom walls, further blurring the boundary between inside and out. Simple furnishings and a neutral color palette allow the view of the forest to take center stage here. This room leads to an outdoor deck, which has two swings attached--providing the perfect spot for full immersion in nature!

A bamboo vacation house.
Aura House is a vacation home on the Ayung River Gorge in Bali, surrounded by tropical jungle is made entirely from locally sourced Asper bamboo, right down to the furniture, fixtures and fittings. The three-story dwelling features winding staircases and outdoor terraces, offering beautiful views of the lush forest and spectacular sunsets from different heights. The retreat is part of Green Village, a compound of hand-built eco-homes designed by a local architectural and design firm called Ibuku, who create sustainable buildings that also look beautiful. Ibuku bent and twisted Asper bamboo to create the curving walls, partitions and staircases within this stunning space. In the open-plan kitchen and living area, the furniture, kitchen cupboards and pendant light shade are all made from bamboo, too. The material was chosen by Ibuku as it’s fast-growing and sustainable, reducing the environmental impact of Green Village. In the bedroom, huge bamboo beams support the structure on either side. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors allow light to stream into the room. The space opens out onto an outdoor deck with a hammock, so guests can relax in the fresh air and take in the breathtaking views of the tree canopy.
Steel and glass
Brazilian architecture firm Nitsche Arquitetos Associados completed the Iporanga Residence (above) in 2006. Named after its location--Iporanga is an area of dense jungle, approximately 120km east of Sao Paulo. The property was designed as a summer vacation home for a family, but as the rainforest is protected, the owner wanted a house that would take up minimal space on the land. It also needed to be large enough to house five bedrooms. Thoroughly modern in design, the open-plan living and kitchen area features stunning dining tables topped with vivid green marble to mirror the lush jungle scenery outside. Ceiling beams are exposed, lending the space an industrial feel. Glass panels and sliding glass doors on all sides of the room offer the residents 360° views of the rainforest. The top-level bedrooms provide an ideal lookout point from which to take in sweeping views of the surrounding landscape, but also offers privacy via a series of Nylon curtains that can be drawn across the floor-to-ceiling windows. Aluminum sliding doors open the bedrooms onto a common veranda.
Modern living in a dense forest
Set in a secluded area near Mount Whitfield in Cairns, Australia, this single-story contemporary treehouse by MMP Architects is made up of three pavilions connected by roofed outdoor passages, elevated above the slope on which it’s built by a steel support framework. A driveway leads to the dwelling, winding its way through a forest of 131-foot-tall terminalia and quandong trees. This central living area can open out to the tree canopy via a wall of glass doors leading to a balcony. Eclectic patterns on the rug, cushions and wall art enliven the modern, airy space, creating a homely atmosphere. Leading off from the kitchen is this outdoor dining area, built at a slightly lower level and protected from the elements by a large canopy roof. It has no walls, and is open to the forest on all sides, making it ideal for entertaining guests. The space leads to a deck with comfortable seating to relax in. The master bedroom and bathroom boast views of a rock face, which transforms into a stunning waterfall during the rainy season. The homeowners can sleep soundly at night knowing their abode is eco-friendly--water is heated using solar power, while durable materials such as sustainably grown wood and locally sourced stone were used in the building’s construction, reducing the need for future maintenance.
This one looks nothing like all the others.
South African architecture studio Malan Vorster designed this house for a client who wanted a Cape Town hideaway that resembled a treehouse. Set in the suburb of Constantia, it was deliberately built on a steep slope so that it would sit above the forest’s tree line, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Made up of four cylindrical towers raised above the ground on stilts, the property offers 360° views in all directions from large windows. The materials used to build the house--untreated cedar wood and steel beam supports--will naturally weather over time, allowing the structure to blend into the surrounding forest. This open-plan living area and kitchen occupies the first floor of the house. Minimal furnishings in a neutral palette allow the warm cedar walls and floors and the stunning views of the treetops to do the talking. The strong black lines of the wood-burning stove, the side table and the floor lamp echo the industrial steel beams that frame the windows. Enclosed by a glass balustrade, the master bedroom on the second floor was designed to double as a lookout platform, offering stunning vistas of the trees below. The bed frame and bedside table are cleverly built into the wall, creating a minimal, seamless finish. An in-suite bathroom is tucked away in a nook behind the bed.
The treehouses chosen above have a broad range of sizes and styles. Some are supported by trees, while others simply cohabitate with their jungle or woodland environment. All are environmentally friendly and...unfortunately, all demand the climbing of steps. I'd have to have one with an elevator.

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