7. Tree Houses. The true story of these incredible constructions.
When I was little, my dream was to have my own Tree House … Being surrounded by nature and feel like you are a part of it, growing and living in my own little place to refuge and dream, you and the tree, the leaves, the natural breeze, the sky and the sound of birds. Trying to reach the sky and the moon, with the roots in the earth and branches in the sky.
We try to touch those dreams when we face the design process of Tree Houses cause each one must be on the borderline between imagination and reality.
Since antiquity, Tree Houses or buildings on trees have been built by primitive tribes hiding in trees from predatory beasts and floods. And they have existed as a reference in religious, symbolic, philosophical, literary, cinematographic, and architectural fields.
First References of Tree Houses
The first references we can find are the ancestors of man, the apes, which have always lived in the treetops, and in general, primates continue to do so, creating nests for their safety and protection.
Historical Background of Tree Houses
According to Paula Henderson, the earliest recorded evidence of Tree Houses were used as places of recreation, delight, and pleasure in the first century in Roman culture. The Roman emperor Gaius Caesar (12-41 AD), nicknamed Caligula, is perhaps the first historical figure associated with a Tree House. On an estate in Velitrae, he built a house in a huge plane tree. Pliny the Elder described how Caligula established the floor in the tree with horizontal branches serving as seats; he held a banquet in the tree in a dining room large enough to accommodate fifteen guests and servants.
In the Middle Ages, the dendrites were anchorites who lived in trees, built a house on the branches, and spent their lives there.
In the Italian Renaissance, tree architecture reached its highest popularity and design. The powerful and influential Medici family of Florence built Tree Houses in the gardens of their villas that became tourist attractions. Renaissance art and culture spread throughout Europe, embracing landscaping and gardening along with all the arts and sciences.
In the 17th century, there are many records of paintings, drawings, and engravings of Tree Houses in the UK. Only one of this houses survives at Pitchford Hall, possibly the oldest surviving Tree House in the world. The house is square with tiled roofs and is supported on large horizontal branches accessible by a wooden ladder.
In Germany in the eighteenth century, linden trees were created on the trees in the center of the villages, called Tanzlinden, building one or more platforms supported on wooden structures and around their trunks used by the villagers for dancing.
And from the twentieth century, as recorded by Anthony Aikman in his book Tree Houses, Tree Houses started to be used as hotels, called Tree Tops, which attracted many famous people every year.
Literary background of Tree Houses
An outstanding literary example is The Baron Rampant (1957) by Italo Calvino. The main character, Baron Cosimo, lives in solitude in the trees from a very young age, taking the distance that allows him to take in everything from his gaze, to understand everything, and from there, jumping from branch to branch, participating beneficially in the lives of others.
The theme of children living in Tree Houses was first treated in James Matthew Barrie’s Peter Pan (1904), in which the lost children lived in Tree Houses in Neverland, in their own world in which they refuse to grow up and become adults.
And finally, some more modern examples such as the novel The Lord of the Rings (1954 and 1955) by J.R.R Tolkien, the movie Star Wars (1977), and Avatar (2009).
In summary, Tree Houses have had a symbolic character for years. They have been used for different purposes, such as shelter, places for delight and pleasure, spiritual and religious ambits, natural hotels, research, and imaginary places developed in literature, cinema, painting, and television.
These imaginary references and archetypes have shaped the design ideas of contemporary Tree Architecture in our studio and in others around the world, transforming what started as a fictional utopia into a reality.
February 9, 2022
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