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Treehouses for All Occasions

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There's something about a treehouse that appeals to all of us. Maybe it's the view, or getting close to nature, or reliving childhood memories. There are many ways to enjoy treehouses, no matter what age you are.

A Treehouse Protest

Beginning in 1997, Julia Butterfly Hill spent two years in a treehouse, 180 feet up in a tree named Luna to protest old-growth logging. Her treehouse was only a 6x8 foot tent, but she had plenty of visitors and conducted interviews via cellphone. Luna was estimated to be somewhere between 600 and 1,000 years old! Hill's protest drew the support of Earth First! and other environmental organizations. Hill finally came down from the tree on December 18, 1999 when Pacific Lumber Company agreed to spare the tree and a three-acre buffer area. In 2001, the tree was damaged by someone with a chain saw who cut a 32-inch deep gash around the trunk. Guy wires were added for support, and the tree survives today.

The Treehouse as Art

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The Steampunk Tree House is a 30-foot-tall interactive work of art first exhibited at Burning Man. It is made of recycled wood and metal, and outfitted with steam pipes, which can exude puffs of steam when needed. There are solar panels included, which power LED lights. The Steampunk Tree House will appear at the Coachella 2008 music festival next weekend and the Stagecoach music festival in May, both in Indio, California.

Hotels

Sanya Nanshan
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You can find treehouse hotels all over the world. Sanya Nanshan Treehouse Resort and Beach Club offers four treehouses as vacation rentals near the beach near Nanshan Mountain in south China.

The Tree Houses Hotel
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The Tree Houses Hotel is a bed and breakfast in Costa Rica, in the rain forest near Arenal Volcano.

Cedar Creek Treehouse
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Cedar Creek Treehouse at Mt. Ranier in Washington is a cabin 50 feet high in a giant cedar tree. Climb a spiral staircase around a nearby fir tree and cross a swinging bridge and you can see the view from an observatory 100 feet in the air!

Permanent Homes

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If you want to live in a treehouse all the time, there are ways to do it. Finca Bellavista Rainforest Village is a permanent community of treehouses at the base of a rain forest mountain in Costa Rica. The goal of the community is to preserve rain forest acreage and promote sustainable living arrangements.

Grownup Retreats

Treehouse Teahouse
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Japanese professor of architecture Terunobu Fujimori built his boyhood dream in his father's garden in 2004. It's a teahouse on stilts! They call it the "Too High Teahouse".

Free Spirit Spheres
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You don't have to build your own treehouse. There are several companies who will do it for you. Free Spirit Spheres will deliver a ready-made pod to your forest and install it safely.

For Kids

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Kevin McKinney built a treehouse for his two daughters on top of an 8 foot wide Giant Redwood stump. The house has a cantilevered porch, observation deck, sink, closet, and interior stalactites!

Ground Level Tree Bar

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A Baobab tree in Limpopo, South Africa is so big that it's been made into a bar! The tree has a 155-foot circumference and is hollow. The bar can seat 15 people comfortably, and once held 54 people (although not comfortably). Baobabs begin to hollow out at about a thousand years of age; this tree is estimated to be 6,000 years old. When owners Doug and Heather van Heerden set up the pub in the late eighties, they found artifacts indicating that Bushmen and Dutch pioneers had been inside, and had possibly lived in the tree.

Tree Tent

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The Treepee is a tent that hangs from a tree! You can use it as a trampoline that you can't fall out of (unless you leave the door open), or a swing. Tether the corners to the ground for more stability. If you hang it high, use the pulley that comes with it to haul up provisions. The floor is much softer than the ground, for either sleeping or sitting.

This is just an overview of different kinds of treehouses. You can see quite a few more in the articles Incredible Treehouses and Universally Accessible Treehouses.

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Ramones Karaoke, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
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Fake It Until You Make It: 10 Artificial Ruins
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Ramones Karaoke, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The love of ruins, sometimes called ruinophilia, has for centuries inspired the creation of clever fakes—a host of sham facades and hollowed-out castle shells found on grand English, European, and even American estates. The popularity of constructing artificial ruins was at its peak during the 18th and 19th centuries, but architects occasionally still incorporate them today.

Why build a structure that is already crumbling? Between the 16th and 19th centuries, the popularity of counterfeit ruins was influenced by two factors—a classical education that enforced the ideals of ancient Greece and Rome, and the extended tour of Europe (known as The Grand Tour) that well-to-do young men and women took after completing their education. Travelers might start in London or France and roam as far as the Middle East, but the trip almost always included Italy and a chance to admire Roman ruins. More than a few wealthy travelers returned home longing to duplicate those ruins, either to complement a romantic landscape, to demonstrate wealth, or to provide a pretense of family history for the newly rich.

Here are a few romantic ruins constructed between the 18th and 21st centuries.

1. SHAM CASTLE // BATHAMPTON, ENGLAND

Sham Castle (shown above) is aptly named—it’s only a façade. The "castle," overlooking the English city of Bath, was created in 1762 to improve the view for Ralph Allen, a local entrepreneur and philanthropist as well as to provide jobs for local stonemasons. From a distance it looks like a castle ruin, but it's merely a wall that has two three-story circular turrets and a two-story square tower at either end. The castle is not the only folly (as such purely decorative architecture is often called) that Allen built. He also constructed a sham bridge on Serpentine Lake in what is now Prior Park Landscape Garden—the bridge can't be crossed, but provides a nice focal point for the lake. Today, Sham Castle is part of a private golf course.

2. WIMPOLE FOLLY // CAMBRIDGESHIRE, ENGLAND

Building a structure that looks as if it's crumbling does not preclude having to perform regular maintenance. The four-story Gothic tower known as Wimpole Folly in Wimpole, Cambridgeshire, England, was built 1768-72 for Philip Yorke, first Earl of Hardwicke and owner of the Wimpole Estate. Owned by Britain’s National Trust, the ruin threatened to truly crumble a few years ago, so restoration efforts were needed. The last restoration was so well done it won the 2016 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage. The Wimpole Estate is now open to the public for walks and hikes.

3. CAPEL MANOR FOLLY // ENFIELD, ENGLAND

Capel Manor at Bulls Cross, Enfield, England has been the site of several grand homes since the estate’s first recorded mention in the 13th century, so visitors might be tempted to believe that the manor house's ruins date back at least a few centuries. But that sense of history is an illusion: The faux 15th-century house was built in 2010 to add visual appeal to the manor gardens, which have been open to the public since the 1920s.

4. ROMAN RUIN // SCHONBRUNN PALACE, VIENNA, AUSTRIA

The Roman Ruin was built as a garden ornament for the 1441-room Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, one of the most important monuments in Austria. The ruin was once called The Ruins of Carthage, after the ancient North African city defeated by Roman military force. But despite the illusion of antiquity, the ruins were created almost 2000 years after Carthage fell in 146 B.C.E. The ruin’s rectangular pool, framed by an intricate semi-circle arch, was designed in 1778 by the architect Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg, who modeled it on the Ancient Roman temple of Vespasian and Titus, which he had seen an engraving of.

5. THE RUINEBERG // POTSDAM, GERMANY

One of the earliest examples of artificial ruins in Germany was the complex of structures known as The Ruinenberg. Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, had a summer palace in Potsdam, near Berlin, that was said to rival Versailles. In 1748 Frederick commissioned a large fountain for the palace complete with artificial ruins. The waterworks part of his plan proved too difficult and was soon abandoned, but not before designer Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff constructed the ruins. The complex includes Roman pillars, a round temple, and the wall of a Roman theatre. Since 1927 the site has belonged to the Prussian Gardens and Palaces Foundation, Berlin-Brandenburg.

6. PARC MONCEAU // PARIS, FRANCE

Elegant Parc Monceau is located in the fashionable 8th arrondissement of Paris near the Champs-Elysees and Palais de l’Elysée. In 1778, the Duke of Chartres decided to build a mansion on land previously used for hunting. He loved English architecture and gardens, including the notion of nostalgic ruins, so he hired the architect Louis Carrogis Carmontelle to create an extravagant park complete with a Roman temple, antique statues, a Chinese bridge, a farmhouse, a Dutch windmill, a minaret, a small Egyptian pyramid, and some fake gravestones. The most notable feature of the park is a pond surrounded by Corinthian columns, now known as Colonnade de Carmontelle.

7. HAGLEY PARK CASTLE // WORCESTERSHIRE, ENGLAND

The ruins of the medieval castle at Hagley Park in Worcestershire are definitely fake, but they were built with debris from the real ruin of a neighboring abbey. The folly was commissioned by Sir George Lyttelton in 1747 and designed by Sanderson Miller, an English pioneer of Gothic revival architecture. The castle has a round tower at each corner, but by design only one is complete and decorated inside with a coat of arms. The grounds, which also feature a temple portico inspired by an ancient Greek temple, some urns, and obelisks, are now privately owned and not open to the public.

8. TATA CASTLE RUINS // TATA, HUNGARY

French architect Charles de Moreau (1758-1841) was a scholar of classical Roman architecture known for his ability to counterfeit impressive ruins. Nicholas I, Prince Esterhazy of Hungary, hired him to work on Tata Castle and to create the ruins of a Romanesque church for the palace’s English Garden. Even though the ruin Moreau created was fake, he built it with the stones of a real ruin, the remnants of the early-12th-century Benedictine and later Dominican abbey of Vértesszőlős. A third-century ancient Roman tombstone and relief were placed nearby.

9. BELVEDERE CASTLE // MANHATTAN, NEW YORK

Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed Central Park in the mid-1800s, and their plan for creating romantic vistas included the construction of a folly known as Belvedere Castle. The Gothic-Romanesque style hybrid, overlooking Central Park’s Great Lawn, was completed in 1869. Although the folly was designed as a hollow shell and meant to be a ruin, it eventually served a practical purpose, housing a weather bureau and exhibit space. The castle also provides a beautiful backdrop for Shakespeare in the Park productions, evoking the royal homes that play prominent roles in the Bard’s works.

10. FOLLY WALL IN BARKING TOWN SQUARE // LONDON

In a borough known for its real historic buildings, the ancient wall found in London’s Barking Town Square might look centuries old. It’s not, and ironically, the wall is part of the square’s renovation efforts. The wall was built by bricklaying students at Barking College using old bricks and crumbling stone items found at salvage yards. Known as the "Secret Garden," named after the children’s book about a walled garden, the wall was designed to screen a nearby supermarket and was unveiled in 2007.

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Dutch Tiny House Village Provides Houses for the Homeless
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The new residential development outside the Dutch city of Eindhoven is no ordinary community. Skaeve Huse is a special place designed for Eindhoven’s most vulnerable populations, according to Inhabitat. It’s aimed at providing permanent living quarters for previously homeless people with mental illness or drug addiction, or who otherwise struggle to live in traditional city residences.

The community was designed by the Amsterdam-based architects at Studio Elmo Vermijs for the Trudo Housing Corporation, a Dutch developer. (The company previously offered a rental discount for tenants who assist refugees.)

A bicycle is parked outside a slanted green tiny house.

“In recent years, several Skaeve Huse have been built in the Netherlands, always temporary, mostly in containers,” the architects write in their description of the project. “Trudo wanted a permanent and energy-neutral design so that this vulnerable group could benefit from the homes in the long term. Skaeve Huse Eindhoven is the first of its kind designed and built with these principles as starting point.”

The Trudo Housing Corporation partnered with the European Investment Bank in 2016 to create more environmentally sustainable social housing programs.

A bicycle is parked outside a slanted green tiny house.

Skaeve loosely means “slanted,” and some of the walls of the colorful houses do indeed slant, giving them a whimsical look. The high ceilings are designed to give the 355-square-foot houses a more spacious, airy feel despite the small size, while maintaining privacy with windows high off the ground. Each of the homes has a living room with a small open kitchen, a bathroom, and an entrance foyer.

The homes are spaced apart to help give people who have trouble living in the typical, cramped spaces of an urban environment extra room, which the designers hope will help limit disputes between neighbors. The land was formerly a forest, and the homes are placed between trees along a winding path.

Though designed for people who didn’t have homes, this tiny house community looks cute enough to replicate for traditional housing, too.

[h/t Inhabitat]

All images courtesy of Elmo Vermijs.

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