German firm baumraum looks skyward in building its new paradigm
Incorporating distinct designs for unconventional projects, Andreas Wenning and his firm baumraum have become one of the world’s most renowned treehouse architects. Owing to his personal preference for small spaces and experimental architecture, his treehouses represent a symbiosis between modern architecture and nature.
Built mostly for families with smaller children, baumraum has built treehouses throughout Europe—Germany, Austria, Italy, Hungary—and as far away as Brazil and the U.S. “We’d be glad to build something in the Middle East. We would like to present other concepts—like Jungle House and Palm Fiction—and maybe parlay that into presenting something for higher-level clients as well,” says Wenning.
With so much of the industry’s emphasis on building smart and building green, Wenning understands the challenges of building structures that directly interact with their natural environment. In short, he knows putting buildings in trees isn’t the best way to be eco-friendly and, to that end, baumraum collaborates with experts to ensure the treehouses don’t injure their natural hosts.
“We work with tree experts to find the best solution to connect the treehouse with the trees. We use textile belts and heavy duty steel cables to fix the structures. We don’t use any bolts or nails.”
The immediate future comes laden with aspirations for expanding to bigger, more inclusive projects. For instance, Wenning and his team are looking into the feasibility of creating a beach project, which would incorporate several of his Palm Fiction-type (see page 64) structures for a desert context. But, apart from focusing specifically on treehouses, baumraum is looking to expand its projects to include myriad applications.
“We expect to create bigger structures for the tourist industry.... Maybe not only in trees,” speculates Wenning. “Maybe on the water, in the desert or on cliffs…or maybe we’ll build a little space on the rooftop of a skyscraper.” The following case study profiles several of baumraum’s recent projects.
Between Alder & Oak
Built in 2006 for a family with adult children, Between Alder and Oak was constructed in Bad Rothenfelde, near Osnabrück, in northern Germany, and serves as a secondary room for relaxation and can be converted into an extra space for guests.
Two load-bearing posts rest upon a concrete foundation to share the weight of the structure and alleviate unnecessary cantilevering. High-grade steel and oak balustrades bedeck the staircase, which lead to the first terrace and continue a metre further to the cabin.
Once inside the cabin, the side walls are framework structures, with oak boarding, rockwool insulation on the inside and wind foil combined with ventilated, horizontal oak lamellas on the outside. The curved roof is covered in bitumen and oak lamellas. The treehouse has been fitted with glazing on all sides and a large dormer window.
The interior of the treehouse incorporates a spacious rest area and features a series of benches—with drawers built into them—that line the interior walls. The resting area provides a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.
Gross Ippener, Germany
Constructed in Gross Ippener—near Bremen in northern Germany—Treehouse Djuren serves as a room for rest and relaxation for adults as well as a hideaway for children. The spacious terrace is large enough for a table and a few chairs to entertain guests or provide a hospitable environment as an extra bedroom.
“The clients wished an extraordinary and comfortable treehouse. The design and realization was dedicated totally to the architects,“ says Wenning.
The construction of this particular treehouse was divided into two sections: the lower terrace and the treehouse with a small terrace. The surrounding oaks were unable to bear the complete weight of the building and thus, the treehouse is supported by four load-bearing posts that rest on a reinforced concrete foundation. The trees, however, do bear the load of the terraces through the use of steel cables and textile belts that have been expertly designed to protect the tree and vegetation.
The curved side walls are framework structures that include white walls and rockwool insulation on the interior and wind foil, and horizontal oak lamellas on the exterior. The roof is covered by a zinc sheet. The treehouse is fitted with glazing on all sides and a large dormer window. The gable is covered with cream-white acrylic glass.
The interior is furnished with an area for lying and a bench. Drawers of acrylic glass and bamboo are fitted beneath the bench and the the interior furniture and the floor are made of oak.
Between Magnolia & Pine
Built for a family with adult children and grandchildren, Between Magnolia & Pine was realised in 2007 in a large private garden near Osnabrück in northern Germany. The structure serves as a playground, a relaxation space and a meeting point for business. The spacious terrace includes an outdoor shower and space for outdoor furniture.
Constructed of Tatajuba timber—a medium-to-coarse Brazilian hardwood that boasts excellent durability and a yellow/brown appearance—the terrace and framework structures are held in place by high-grade steel frames. The façade features oak boarding, rockwool insulation and windfoil on the interior, and ventilated, horizontal Tatajuba boards on the exterior.
The interior of high quality is furnished with benches on three sides—all of which feature oak drawers—and a small table. A stereo system, a large dormer window, artificial lighting and a heater make the treehouse comfortable year round.
World of Living Treehouse
The World of Living Treehouse was designed and built as a 70th birthday gift for Hans Weber, German entreprenuer and founder of Weberhaus prefabricated homes. This particular project is part of the World of Living Park, which is a physical history of housing throughout various eras in Germany history.
Combined with several model homes, attractions for children and restaurants, the World of Living Park was inaugurated at the beginning of 2008 and realised by young apprentices of Weberhaus and several other partners.
The treehouse project is one of the most popular attractions in the park and underlines the innovative orientation of Weberhaus. The oval-shaped cabin, with its complex static system is supported by seven inclined, asymmetric larch supports. The large oak tree in the middle of the terrace bears its full weight through the use of straps and steel cables.
A double-flight staircase leads up to the large terrace where users can reach the cabin by crossing a second set of stairs. The side walls are insulated framework structures, featuring oak panelling on the interior and larch lamellas on the exterior. The curved roof is covered by a zinc metal sheet, which is designed to resist rusting.
Photographic wallpaper donning the tops of the surrounding oaks adorns the interior of the cabin, while oak benches line the interior beneath the windows. The benches feature integrated drawers and small, wheeled wooden tables to meet the various demands of the small room.
Interior walls provide visitors with text modules in three languages that describe the association between living spaces and trees. After a longer sojourn in the cabin, visitors discover a more complex wordplay between the leaves on the walls.
A theoretical project, Palm Fiction was designed in the summer of 2008 to be included in a book featuring baumraum’s portfolio of work. Designed to be a departure from building amongst the trees of cooler climates, Palm Fiction aims to widen the range of possibilities for clients who live in desert or tropical contexts yet still seek unique guestrooms or playhouses for children.
The design illustrates a small modern space, which features a dynamic futuristic pod-like shape and lightweight materials, including structural PVC, aluminium railings/baulastrades and timber stairs.
Aside from its unique form Palm Fiction provides a playful yet safe environment, given its potential to be built within close proximity to the main house or structure. In the event the palms are unable to carry the full weight of the structure, baumraum can design a support system, which effectively makes the structure independent of the strength of the trees.