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July 5, 2011 / Robert Ross

up a tree

For the last couple of months, treehouses have been a major topic of household conversation. We no longer have any trees in the backyard capable of supporting a tree structure, but the idea of having a “climb to” place is trumping that deficiency and we are getting creative with our thought process. The current plan is to build an independent viewing platform/structure of some sort that will straddle my single story office (formerly garage).

This weekend we took an overnight trip to Huntsville, Alabama. The main target was the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Given the drive time, we opted to head over on Sunday and spend most of the day Monday at the Center. This gave us time to kill on Sunday afternoon. Serendipitously, the Huntsville Botanical Garden was hosting an exhibit of designer treehouses! It made for a perfect way to spend the afternoon after the long morning drive.

Ahoy thar matey!

Surprisingly (but maybe not given the site), most of the treehouses took little advantage of the trees for support and ended up looking and acting more like garden pavilions than treehouses.  Some of them didn’t interact with trees at all but instead focused on woodland themes and fantasy.  Those that did engage, captured the imagination. A couple that did so stood out above the rest. The universal favorite of our group was the pirate ship. It engaged the tree by using it as a mast. The tree also provided support for the entry stairs, a surprisingly elegant concoction of wood and rope.  The ropes immediate call to mind the rigging of tall ships. With a soaring fabrication overhead emulating sails. It captured the essence of ship on dry land. What boy can resist a canon and gangplank. The swings down below made this a great interactive display.

Sail and Stair














Another crowd pleaser was the tribute to the Wizard of Oz. It’s bright yellow bridge leading to a platform set atop a twisted house and a smashed witch. The yellow railing was created from plastic tree protection netting. The flowering trees around its base were fabricated from rebar and soda cans. The flying monkey was a nice touch.  Rather than being scary, it brought to mind the ubiquitous sock monkey. It was apparently part of a water feature that was not functioning during our visit.

Soda Can Flowers

Remembering Oz

Flying Monkey!



The souvenir of the day was a book on Treehouses that has popped up several times while blog surfing. It is New Treehouses of the World , by treehouse designer and builder Pete Nelson. It encompasses the entire spectrum of treehouse design and contains some incredible examples of what is happening in the field worldwide. The permanance imbued in some of the examples of what has to be considered a temporary structure is amazing. It also reveals the desire to live in the trees as a cross cultural phenomenon. Some of the detailing in these structures is truly spectacular. You can see a slide show of some of the projects featured in the book at the Green Living website.

While our family effort will remain more modest than some of the examples seen in Huntsville and the book, both will provide inspiration! I’ll keep you posted.


One Comment

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  1. jeff / Jul 5 2011 1:34 pm

    Absolutely great article, Robert ! Glad everyone enjoyed the trip !

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