Treehouse architect Alex Shirley-Smith wanted to create a portable treehouse, a kind of ready-made, floating shelter that could be assembled in any backyard, wood or even city streets.
In 2010 Shirley-Smith released several tree tent prototypes inspired by spiders’ webs. “A spider always uses three anchoring points and the web finds its own position in space that’s a circle in between any of those 3 points. So as long as you’ve got 3 anchoring points this tent will find its own central position to create its own shape inside that triangle. The whole thing is sort of taken from spider’s web technology or you know, what exists in nature. Biomicmicry.”
After refining 11 prototypes, Shirley-Smith and partner Kirk Kirchev finally released a production model tree tent- the Tentsile Stingray. Using just 3 tree straps, 2 poles and one fly sheet, the Stingray will shelter up to 4 people in mid-air. It takes about 10 minutes to set-up and a few minutes to take down. And best of all, it is one size fits all.
“It’s not bespoke, so it’s a treehouse solution that avoids all of the pitfalls of treehouse architecture. Because a treehouse has to be bespoke to be made to the host tree and this is a treehouse that one shape fits all. It doesn’t have to be custom made: any three trees, any three points, I mean we’ve put it up in London on lampposts and bollards and stuff.”
The tent can be used as a camping alternative- to keep you comfortably suspended above any animals, bugs or uncomfortable rocks-, but the design could also prove the basis for a new type of eco-village. Kirchev dreams of one day creating a community of (much larger) tensile structures where portable villages could be mounted and disassembled in a day, leaving little impact on the forest floor.
“It will also be quite spectacular to be able to be up above in the canopy where the birds are singing and there’s leaves and it’s just a great environment, which it has been unexplored until now. Go back to the trees… we’ve never had people up the trees until we came down from the trees I suppose.”