Walking through the Swedish woods near the village Harads and the Lule river you might chance upon what resembles an oversized bird’s nest. Looking around you will see more buildings in the trees – you have arrived at the Tree Hotel where there is even a tree sauna for up to twelve people.
The Tree Hotel is not alone: As people seek ways to be closer to nature, living in trees is one solution that seems to be catching on in recent years. The tree house trend has also been identified by the web portal Trend Hunters which writes: “These contemporary arboreal abodes prove that anything is possible with a little imagination.”
For the Tree Hotel, it started with a documentary when its founder Britta Lindvall watched one late night “The Tree Lover” – a movie by Jonas Selberg Augustsen who decided with a film crew to realize their dream and build a tree house in the northern part of Sweden. She thought to herself, “that’s it – people like to live in trees.” Then she started the project. Kent Lindvall, a lifelong pathfinder and an expert in adventure tourism, helps her run the beautiful place in the woods. Their five unique rooms were finished in 2010 and designed by some of Sweden’s leading architects. More rooms were finished in 2013.
“We care about the environment and try to use local material and local builders. We burn the waste from the toilets (so only ash remains) and try to save water,” explains Britta in a melodious Swedish accent. “Our hotel is very popular and people from all over the world visit us. 65-70% of the visitors are from abroad.”
Tourism in trees is also catching on at the opposite side of the world. At the Hapuka Lodge in New Zealand, which opened its doors in 2003, luxurious tree houses are, according to its website, “nested 10 M above the ground in the canopy of a native Manuka grove.” Sustainability is also of concern here: Native wood was used for the exterior and the interior was crafted by “local woodworking friends.”
Tree houses are also suitable for prayer. In Crossville, Tennessee, landscaper Horace Burgess built what is reportedly the largest tree house existing today. The Minister’s House as it’s called, is a church in the trees. Using recycled materials such as lumber from garages or storage barns, Burgess started construction in 1993, which continued for 14 years. Though now indefinitely closed by the state government, the church was attracting as many visitors as around 400-500 each week. He says: “The whole message of the thing is if you come to see the site and climb to the top, you’ll see Jesus in the garden, and the preacher didn’t have to say a word.”
Antony Gibbon also builds tree houses. He is one of the leading designers of modern tree houses and his recent design “Roost” has received much attention globally. He is inspired by “nature, organic shapes and how animals and insects build their nests.”
He explains: “I try to use natural materials and building techniques that have the most minimal impact on the environment. Most of the construction takes place off site to not disturb the surroundings. The designs are aimed to blend in with nature so therefore they must work with nature and try not to dominate the surrounding area.”
The architect believes that “we are being more and more disconnected from our natural surroundings” and tree houses can help us “reconnect back to our natural environment as much as we can.”
Back in Sweden, Britta has tried all the rooms of her tree hotel, but lives “on the ground” herself. She says that the best thing about living in a tree is that “you feel free up there.”
Featured image source: flickr / Detlef Schobert under Creative Commons