The next time you consider building or buying a house, consider this: rather than clear trees from a plot of land and pour a foundation into the ground, tap into your childhood imagination and build your house in the trees.
“Tree Houses: Fairy-Tale Castles in the Air,” by Philip Jodidio invites readers to tour 50 tree houses from around the world. Jodidio, who studied economics and art history at Harvard University, served as editor-in-chief of the Connaissance des Arts for over 20 years and is one of the most prolific writers on architecture. The coffee table book, which hit shelves Monday, is a collection of illustrations by Patrick Hruby along with photographs of each house.
The cover of the book “Tree Houses: Fairy-tale Castles in the Air.” The book was released on Dec. 17, 2012. The illustration was created by Patrick Hruby.
“From vertiginous heights, a man in a tree could look down on daily existence like a bird in flight, a step to breaking the bounds of the ordinary, a hint of immortality,” writes Jodidio in the book’s introduction.
The author then tours the history of the tree house, from their continued use by the Kombai and Korowai tribes of Indonesia to Cosimo I de’ Medici. “The Swiss Family Robinson,” one of the most famous stories of fictional tree house denizens, makes an appearance as does the work of high-end tree house design and construction company La Cabane Perchee. Well represented among the collection are the rooms at the Treehotel in Harads, Sweden. Among the hotel rooms are a tree house encased in reflective glass and another shaped like a UFO. Also featured is a tea house nestled among cherry blossom branches in Japan. With each house, the book tickles the imagination. In an e-mail exchange earlier this month, Jodidio answered some questions about the book , innovation, design and even the economy.
Q: Tree houses have been around for ages and are often seen as play places for children rather than real homes. What inspired this book at this time?
A: The idea for this book came from the publisher, Benedikt Taschen, with whom I have worked since 1990. Benedikt has a very good sense about the ways in which books can reach people. Maybe it’s just a question of times being difficult and the tree house representing a getaway in many senses — a gentle escapism that permits builders or owners to quite literally see the world from another perspective.
Anchored in the earth, a house can only be moved by the most powerful forces of nature. A tree house likely sways in the wind. Modernity and contemporary lifestyles reduce the contact with nature of most people to an extent that we are cut off from everything that inspired architecture for so many centuries. Some of the tree houses we selected have modern conveniences, but most do not. They represent a return to what we will call “a world that is already there.” One can “escape” from every-day existence, which has so many artificial aspects, to a place where the rules of nature still hold. There is a slight element of risk (the fall), giddiness that has to do with rising above the earth on a simple ladder or stair, and to remain suspended in the branches halfway between the ground and the stars.