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Vernacular treehouse built on holm oak, leaves it intact

When an extended Spanish family decided to build a treehouse for their 5 grandchilden on their estate in Extremadura, they knew they wanted to protect their beloved “encinas” (holm oak trees). So they contacted the design firm Urbanarbolismo whose primary focus is “integrating architecture with nature“.

Rather than design a treehouse to fit the family, the architects designed one to fit the tree. It fits so well, in fact, that not a single branch of the centuries-old oak had to be removed, nor was a single nail or screw driven into one.

To create a treehouse that was perfectly molded to the tree, the architects first created a very exacting 3D model of the oak (using photogrammetry). Using the model as their guide, the designers tucked the main room within the largest branches and shaped a deck around the smaller offshoots.

The final project seems fluid with the tree. Artificial roots, in the form of wooden beams, help support the deck. Branches leak through the roof providing a canopy of foliage and shade to the small fort.

Even the small home’s materials are adapted to the environment and provide a perfect camouflage. The roof is made of local shrubs, or “brezo” (heath) and the exterior walls are clad in the bark of local cork oak trees (cork bark can be removed every 9 years and will regenerate).

The completed treehouse is not only a hideout for the grandkids, but the large porch has become a favorite relaxation area for the parents and grandparents, and for a mid-summer nap. “Here, in summer, the sun heats up everything,” explains Grandpa from the porch, “but since it’s beneath the oak, it doesn’t heat up. It stays cool here.”

In this video, Grandpa- who lives fulltime on the property (the grandkids come on the weekends)- gives us a tour the family treehouse. “We made it for the grandkids so they become more aware of the importance of trees. This is something you have to value from a young age.”