Treehouse Plendelhof

Year2003
Photo creditsAlasdair Jardine
LocationBassum, Germany

As a child, I never had my own treehouse. I enjoyed climbing trees and my friends and I would build other things such as huts and little dams. So it was quite some time before I came up with the idea, as an adult, to design and build a treehouse. Having completed a carpentry apprenticeship, studied architecture and gained several years of professional experience, although I had lost the innocent and spontaneous approach of my childhood, my love of building had not disappeared. The idea of designing, building and then using a little space high up in a tree was most appealing. During my studies and my work as an architect, I had always been inspired and influenced by experimental building culture, so I was keen to develop a contemporary interpretation for the treehouse. The question of how a built structure should be anchored in a living organism was entirely new to me. When designing a treehouse, how does one handle the tree’s growth and strong movement, for example in a storm?

Before I could explore these issues, I first had to find the right place with suitable trees. Luckily, some friends offered me the opportunity to undertake this unusual project on their property. The environment of the riding stables was perfect: a well-equipped workshop, a beautiful landscape and, most importantly, some large, healthy trees. Having quickly chosen two magnificent beeches I was ready to start designing.

What I wanted to do was create a space which, even in a small area, would provide adequate room for a couple of friends to gather together comfortably. Naturally, it should also be possible for two people to sleep there. Another important point was a south-facing sun deck, on which one could sit directly under the leaves in summer. Now the crucial question of how to fasten the construction to the trees needed to be answered. After various conversations with respected arborists, the best idea seemed to be to suspend the treehouse from the trees with flexible connectors. By using highly resilient textile straps, the trees would be able to move freely in the wind and grow without interruption, and the bark would not be damaged.

The design concept for the treehouse entailed building the closed part and the terrace in a single connected unit, and suspending it between the two trees. A few preliminary sketches produced a slender, boatlike structure with a triangular floor plan. The proposed means of access was via a vertical and a diagonal staircase.
After climbing nine metres up the beeches, one would enter the treehouse via a hatch in the floor. Light and good vision were also important design criteria. Long, horizontal tilting windows on the side walls, a roof hatch and the horizontally glazed tip of the treehouse would offer an almost all-round view of the crown and the surrounding meadows. Creature comforts are provided by a small heating unit, soft cushions and mattresses, interior and outside lighting and a small hi-fi system. Once the design was in place, the construction of the treehouse got underway in summer. Over the following months, a disused barn on the estate was used as an assembly hall, and it was here that the entire treehouse was prepared. The mounting of the treehouse cabin onto the prepared substructure was then undertaken after the winter break with the help of a few friends and a small truck-mounted crane. After this exciting and, at times, extremely exhausting, building phase, my first treehouse was complete. It was certainly one of the most exciting moments of my life, as I climbed up for the first time, opened the floor hatch, and took in the view and the overall effect. Since its completion, this place in the trees has taken on a special importance for me and my friends. We often drink coffee or serve dinner here on the terrace. Both I, and many of my friends and acquaintances, have spent highly atmospheric nights here in this special place in the trees, both in summer and winter.

At the time, I had not expected that my first treehouse would lead to a whole new area of activity, and that, using the baumraum brand, I would design and build many more treehouses. As such, it is not only in terms of leisure that this space in the trees has acquired major importance.

Trees two beeches
Height 9,10 m
Bearing structure Suspension by means of steel cable and textile straps to two beeches
untreated larches
Interior area 7,60 qm
Terrace area 5,40 qm
Façade construction from inside to outside: 20 mm spruce boarding, raw (recycled); spruce framework 60/60 mm, filled with insulating material; wind foil, black; 20 mm air space; 20 mm untreated, horizontal larch boarding

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