Thanks so much to Inge for writing this amazing article about us in Auroville today. Its a nice little insight into the the world of treehouse community and the vision for those of you who haven’t read the about page. Here it is:
Castles in the Canopy
The TreeHouse Community is an Auroville based undertaking that consists of an international team of state-of-the-art Treehouse constructors. They share their unique combination of skills, in harmony with nature, around the world.
Young Aurovilian Philipp has always been an adamant ambassador of sustainability. When he speaks of his passion, he radiates a joyful vision that inspires many. For many years, he was seeking to live in a way that respects the surrounding ecology, and was searching for a way to live with nature rather than destroy it by making way for housing projects. In his teens, inspired to find an alternative way to live with nature, he built a few treehouse platforms in the Youth Centre. From then on, he began experimenting more and researching further by building treehouses as living spaces. Born and grown up in Auroville, he then left in his twenties to travel the world in search of more like-minded people who care about the environment and who actively research sustainable living. His journey took him to Brazil where he lived in dense forests while continuing to research trees and the dwelling spaces they can provide. With each passing day, his dream of building castles in the canopies took on new dimensions and his passion soared to new heights.
Through his travels he slowly created a network of fellow treehouse constructors who together formed an international community that goes beyond geography and is named the TreeHouseCommunity. It operates out of Auroville and has grown into a dynamic global network of people who both build and maintain treehouses around the world. So far, the TreeHouseCommunity has constructed living spaces in trees and alternative houses in Europe, India and Brazil. Some of their finest work can be seen in and around Auroville and in Chennai, Kodaikanal, and Mangalore.
Currently, he and his team of 10 passionate friends and colleagues live and work together in Auroville. At the moment, they are completing treehouse number 21 and starting number 22. “Besides what we do with treehouses, we also like to explore other things, like designing sky parks, zip lines, suspension bridges, log-swings, see-saws, and we also undertake wood art in the form of furniture,” says Philipp. “We look into organic building styles for many things. Permaculture is also an important aspect of our work that we focus on below every treehouse we build because the roots and the earth under the tree are just as much part of the tree as the visible stem and branches. 500 treehouses in the next ten years! That’s my destiny,” he says.
“The idea came up when I was in Brazil, and then I further developed it here in Auroville as well as during my travels in Germany. Admittedly, I don’t usually plan the future as I like to live day by day, but I know that I really want to work with treehouses and to learn all that I possibly can in this adventure. I want to extend the playground across the whole ecosystem. All forests that allow people to live in them have majestic and sacred trees. Those trees can then house us beings who can also protect that forest. We want to build all over the world because each and every treehouse inspires others and ultimately will change people’s mindset about living in trees. I saw that treehouses are oftentimes only considered as temporary and not as living spaces. We want to change that. It’s all about the trees.”
Luke who has been working with TreeHouseCommunity since one year, explains further: “We believe that treehouses and other kinds of sustainable or natural structures can help us re-evaluate the connection we have with our environment. Treehouses are often thought of as mystical places only seen in fairy-tales and not as the real living spaces which we are building. The driving force behind TreeHouseCommunity is a passion to influence a positive change in consciousness and lifestyle. Treehouses help people to reconnect with nature either by just spending a little time with it on a holiday or retreat, or by actually living with it.”
A large treehouse can add a few tons of material to a tree. This has to be carefully engineered in order to enable the tree to continue living and growing healthily. In order to do that, there are many careful design considerations. For example, the treehouse has to be perfectly centred and built around the trunk of the tree to ensure that it doesn’t have a toppling effect. Sometimes, steel cables have to be installed on upper branches in order to support certain areas of the treehouse so that not all the weight of the treehouse is on the lower branches.
Another essential aspect to consider is keeping the centre of gravity of a treehouse as low as possible. Otherwise, this would mean the treehouse would sway in high winds. The first and largest branches that are available to work with become an important loading point for the treehouse. From there, a series of vertical and diagonal beams can be placed that lead to it. As the treehouse gains height, the upper structures can then be supported by the lower structures and the staircase post. For extra strength and stabilisation, one can also use steel cables as inter-tree connections. Noé, who was in Auroville since he was a toddler and has returned from a year abroad in New Zealand has recently joined the team at TreeHouseCommunity. He explains that using lightweight material such as canvas is a way to ensure that the weight on the tree is minimised. “After a few years and after the tree has become more tolerant towards the extra weight we can always replace the lightweight material with wood, which is of course much more beautiful and our favourite material,” he says.
“Every section that we add to a treehouse changes the dynamic of how the house looks and fits in the tree,” says Luke, “and like a never ending mosaic we add new pieces to the puzzle every day.”