Petaluma Treenest Petaluma, California, 2000
The treenests are functional, semi-inhabitable structures made of material found within walking distance in the forest, making no penetrations to the tree. Structurally, they are often hung; every connection/joint is also a hinge, allowing flexibility for growth and movement of the tree. Like cathedrals, the lifespan of the structures is a function of the growth cycle of the primary material.
The treenests evolved from our earlier architectural design/build projects, which programmatically emphasized the social dimension of creating and using environments. The projects grew out of our desire to radically loosen the reins on this dimension by eliminating commercial engagement and the need for special skills or technologies as much as possible, allowing us to focus whole-heartedly on collaboration and structural invention. Like a barn-raising, the treenests themselves become the byproduct of an improvised architectonic festival, which lives on in the imaginations of the participants; tactics and ideas for collaboration are discussed over collective meals and bonfires.
The treenest projects embody an approach to architecture that both spatially and temporally links the processes of designing, making, using and maintaining a constructed environment. By emphasizing the social dimension of these processes, sited in wilderness environments, the treenests comment on relationships between nature and culture. Their making is a kind of invented folklore which continues to inform all of our design/build projects.