Who didn’t have dreams back in his childhood? Some of them were achieved whilst others never came true. Well, there is an architectural concept that we all dreamed of as children but could only do as an adult fantasy.
A striking pod-shaped structure built ten metres high in a redwood tree near Warkworth, north of Auckland, is the home to what is believed to be New Zealand’s only treehouse restaurant. The treehouse is the focus of a new and unusual advertising campaign for Yellow (currently on TVNZ and online).
The Yellow campaign follows Aucklander Tracey Collins’ real-life mission to build a restaurant in a tree using only Yellow – the book, online and mobile.
Yellow’s ambitious advertising campaign to build a real restaurant ten metres high in a redwood tree has been completed. The occasion was marked with a traditional ‘roof party’ for the project’s suppliers – all of whom were found through Yellow. The striking pod-shaped structure will open to the public for a limited time from 9 January to 9 February 2009, and restaurant guests will be hosted by the face of the campaign, Tracey Collins.
But why a restaurant in a tree? Yellow Marketing Director Kellie Nathan explains that the advertising campaign set out to surprise people and help them see Yellow in a different light.
“We’ve had lots of people questioning whether the treehouse is for real because it is an ad campaign. Well, having eaten at the restaurant myself, I can assure people that Tracey, the tree, and the restaurant are very real.
“We wanted to prove that just about any mission could be completed using Yellow – the book, online or mobile. And I think we’ve done that!”
The concept is driven by the ‘enchanted’ site which is raised above an open meadow and meandering stream on the edge of the woods.
The tree-house concept is reminiscent of childhood dreams and playtime, fairy stories of enchantment and imagination . It’s inspired through many forms found in nature -the chrysalis/cocoon protecting the emerging butterfly/moth, perhaps an onion/garlic clove form hung out to dry. It is also seen as a lantern, a beacon at night that simply glows yet during the day it might be a semi camouflaged growth, or a tree fort that provides an outlook and that offers refuge.The plan form also has loose similarities to a sea shell with the open ends spiralling to the centre .
It’s the treehouse we all dreamed of as children but could only do as an adult fantasy.
Access is via a 60m tree-top ‘accessible’ walkway –an adventure in itself.
The selected site and tree had to meet a myriad of functional requirements -18 seated people and waiting staff in relative comfort complete with a bar; gaining correct camera angles with associated light qualities for filming the adverts, web cam and stills, have unobstructed views into the valley and entrance to the site and structural soundness . The final selected tree is one of the larger trees on the site and sits above a steep part of the site which accentuates the tree’s height. Kitchen/catering facilities and toilets are at ground level.
The Architectural component embodies a simple oval form wrapped ‘organically’ around the trunk and structurally tied at top and bottom, with a circular plan that is split apart on the axis with the rear floor portion raised. This allows the approach from the rear via a playful tree-top walkway experience, slipping inside the exposed face of the pod and being enchanted by the juxtaposition of being in an enclosed space that is also quite ‘open’ and permeable to the treetop views. There is also a ‘Juliet’ deck opposite the entrance that looks down the valley.
The scale and form of the tree-house creates a memorable statement without dominating it’s setting. While it’s natural ‘organic’ form sits comfortably, the rhythm of the various materials retains it’s strong architectural statement. The verticality of the fins mimics the verticality of the redwoods and enable the building to naturally ‘blend’ into it’s setting, as though it were a natural growth.
It sits almost 10m wide and over 12m high, with the split-level floor sitting 10m off the ground. Timber trusses form the main structure. The curved fins are glue-laminated pine, plantation poplar has been used for the slats and redwood milled from the site used in the walkway balustrading. Openings are formed for windows by leaving spaces between the slats/fins that keeps the overall form yet affords a variety of openness for the views and light and closes down toward the rear. To loosen the regularity of the elements, steel is wrapped arbitrarily around the pod. Tying this up at the top and base has a sense of greater connection with the tree.
It is designed to be weather resistant using acrylic sheeting fixed to the roof under the fins with vertical roll-down café-style blinds within. Lighting is an important architectural component enhancing and changing the mood, with discreet lighting within the walkway and up-lighting within the tree house.
The concept proved challenging and encompassed a range of consultants to get both Resource Consent, Building Consent and construction underway in a very limited time. We’ve never been involved in a project quite like this before !