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7 modern tree houses to spark your childhood imagination
Elevated high above the ground, tree houses are familiar symbols of childhood magic and adventure.
Architect Peter Eising remembers how they captured his imagination as a child. He would scavenge for broken branches, twine and abandoned construction materials to build his own makeshift structures up in the trees.
Today, Eising is managing director of Architects Pacific Environments, a design firm focused on sustainable architecture and interiors. And in 2008, he got the chance to live out his childhood dreams when musician Tracey Collins enlisted him to design The Yellow Treehouse -- a chrysalis-inspired restaurant built halfway up a redwood tree north of Auckland -- as part of a marketing campaign for New Zealand's Yellow Pages.
"Tree houses will always retain their place in alternative architecture form," Eising said via email. "(They're) a reminder of opportunities to explore that take us back to nature, the emotional connection with childhood and exploration, and sparks of excitement as a point of difference in the way we perceive building enclosure and protection."
The new book "Tree Houses: Escape to the Canopy," which features an introduction by Eising, brings together some of the most awe-inspiring modern tree houses from around the world. Here are seven that sit at the crossroads of imagination and sophisticated engineering.
The 7th Room by Snöhetta, Harads, Sweden
Northern Sweden is home to the pioneering Treehotel, which comprises a series of cabins built between 13 and 33 feet above the forest floor. Perhaps the most eye-catching of them is the hotel's so-called "7th Room."
With a dark wooden facade supported by 12 columns, the elevated tree house has a large pine growing through its center. The interior, meanwhile, features ash wood flooring and birch plywood walls. Guests have access to a sleek lounge for social gatherings, two minimalist bedrooms with expansive skylights, and a terrace with views of the Lule River Valley.
Complete with a north-facing floor-to-ceiling window, the 7th Room's living area has been nicknamed the "Northern Lights Lounge," as visitors may catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis on a clear night.
Evans Tree House by Modus Studio, Arkansas, USA
This tree house, found in the University of Arkansas' Garvan Woodland Gardens, is "part of an ambitious plan to bring children back into the woods," according to the attraction's website. Inspired by dendrology (the study of trees and wooded plants), the structure's exterior is a semi-transparent shell made from 113 yellow pinewood "ribs" that allow air and sunlight to spill inside.
The unusual, almost conical shape was designed to evoke an atmosphere of mystery -- and to inspire both children and adults to explore the pines and oaks of the surrounding Evans Children's Adventure Garden. Inside, the structure serves as an observation deck, with interior staircases leading to four separate levels. Each represents a different part of a tree: trunk, branches, leaves and fruit or flowers.
Arctic TreeHouse Hotel by Studio Puisto, Rovaniemi, Finland
Located inside the Arctic Circle, this Finnish hotel features north-facing glass walls for visitors hoping to catch the northern lights. The individual buildings were made almost entirely off-site, before being transported to the forest and lifted onto pillars, helping to limit the environmental impact of construction.
The architects behind the project, Studio Puisto, also used renewable Finnish wood and installed a "green" roof, which is covered in vegetation that helps manage runoff.
Depending on the time of year, the rooms offers views of snow-covered forests or lush green foliage. The cabins offer a variety of amenities, from fireplaces and kitchenettes to saunas and -- for those staying in the exclusive ArcticScene Executive Suite -- an entire spa.
Casa Flotante (Floating House) by Talleresque, Mexico City, Mexico
Known as Casa Flotante (or Floating House), this three-story structure resembles a tree trunk with a staircase wrapping around it. The design makes use of several floor-to-ceiling windows, which let in light and offer views of the surrounding greenery.
The occupants use the bottom floor as a work and studio space, complete with a drum set, guitars and speakers, while a bathroom and bedroom are found on the second and third floors respectively.
The tree house's exterior staircase features hanging plants and oversized windows, helping blur the distinction between indoors and out.
Løvtag Treetop Cabins by Sigurd Larsen, Hadsund, Denmark
Large trees grow through the center of each cabin at the Løvtag hotel in Denmark's North Jutland. The three contemporary tree houses allow visitors to feel close to nature as they gaze through floor-to-ceiling windows, while the design nods to Nordic minimalism through clean white walls and light wooden accents.
With an emphasis on sustainability, the cabins incorporate thermally modified wood and recycled metal. Inside, the single-story structures feature a small kitchen, a queen-size bed and a sofa bed, as well as a bathroom with a private outdoor shower.
Visitors can follow a staircase up to a roof terrace before taking in the sights and smells of the surrounding forests.
Black Cabin by La Cabane Perchée, Tuscany, Italy
Sitting on an olive and lavender farm in Viterbo, Italy, this 23-foot-tall tree house is built around a 200-year-old maritime pine. But it has been carefully designed so that the tree remains untouched, while still providing inhabitants with natural shade.
"The owners wanted to explore the idea of a tree house being more than a fable or figment of imagination, and have created what they describe as an eco-loft, suspended from the tree," wrote to the authors of "Tree Houses: Escape to the Canopy."
Inside, designer Claudia Pelizzari's interiors contain a mix of glass, black steel and Canadian cedar wood, as well as a shower decorated in marble and crystal.
From an expansive deck, occupants can soak up the surrounding Cimini Hills and the distant Tyrrhenian Sea.
Constantia Treehouse, by Malan Vorster Architecture Interior Design, Cape Town, South Africa
The Constantia Treehouse was not, in fact, built into a tree -- but it certainly resembles one.
The three-story cylindrical structure mixes steel and warm wood surfaces, with plenty of sunlight penetrating the tall glass-paneled exterior. According to the authors of "Tree Houses: Escape to the Canopy," the design was inspired by the work of famed architects Louis Kahn and Kengo Kuma, among others.
The first floor features a spacious living area and kitchen, decked out in shades of gray, blue and yellow. A winding staircase leads to the second-floor bedroom, where the bed faces huge open windows. The top floor meanwhile houses a roof deck with built-in seating, offering visitors unrivaled views of Constantia, a famed wine-growing region in the suburbs of Cape Town.
"Tree Houses: Escape to the Canopy," by Images Publishing, is available now.