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RESIDENTIAL: Wauchula, Florida

The Treehouse concept was based on the idea of balance. Balance between nature and architecture. The project was designed to integrate living spaces among mature live oaks without compromising the stability and health of the trees. The challenge was to balance the needs of the trees with those of humans.

Our approach was to create an organic design that responded to the oaks. We spent considerable time on site measuring, documenting, and “learning” from the trees. By gleaning a thorough understanding of the footprint, canopy, and spatial variety of the hammock, we began to understand how to create built environments that would offer experiences specific to this extraordinary natural environment.

The design process resulted in two structures containing “pods,” interconnected by elevated walkways. Located to the south, the entry space is based on the southern tradition of a “dogtrot,” a generous walkway between two volumes. The north structure is a tower with two bedrooms vertically separated by a covered garden. At the top is an observation deck offering views above the tree canopy and across the orange groves to the west.

Upon arriving either by car or helicopter, the owner will be greeted by the south 'dogtrot.' This elevated structure rises high on the west end, dips in the center to accommodate nearby tree limbs, and then raises slightly to the east toward views of Charlie’s Creek. At the top of the entry stairs, the dogtrot pod frames a beautiful view of the oak hammock. Here, the direct integration of nature and architecture is evident. Large limbs from both sides of the dogtrot merge and branch into the entry space. To the east of the entry is the kitchen, dining, and living room. On the west side of the dogtrot a guest bedroom suite is accessed by a private stair.

The tower is located on the north end of the site in a clearing where several large trees form an opening to the sky. The tower includes two bedroom pods, along with unique program elements. Located between the bedroom pods is a covered garden space providing an experience within the canopy that captures the true spirit of a “tree house”—a gathering space high up in the trees. The observation deck above is open to the elements allowing for star gazing, among other activities.

Between the two structures are elevated walkways that branch off like trees. The walkways connect the building program, but they also allow users to engage and observe the natural environment from extraordinary vantage points. For instance, the east walkway was specifically placed to follow the path of an ascending tree limb. Along this walk, the tree limb functions as a handrail, allowing a tactile experience within the hammock.

Each part of the project was designed to engage the user in an environment that transcends common residential experiences. The oak hammock offers an environment that required a delicate architectural solution, one that balanced human needs with those of the natural environment.