Boomwonen: Living In The Urban Trees

This is neither a huge wasp nest, nor a colony of grizzly bears hanging around in the Dutch suburbs. This is a man’s home. Boomwonen is a project by the Dutch artist Roel de Boer in which he explores what ‘home’ really means in a contemporary social context.

Originating from an island (Texel), the big city feels stifling to him and leads to an increasing desire to live a more physical lifestyle, closer to nature. At the same time the social and cultural diversity of the city attracts him. The ideal place to live, assumes De Boer, would be a place combining these both characteristics. And since we cannot all afford a huge farm on Times Square, we have to come up with other ideas. By creating little places to rest (sleeping and sitting) in the middle of the city, the artist hopes to find his ideal way to live.

From an urban perspective, trees form peaceful islands of tranquility. Climbing a tree is a physical action bringing back consciousness about our body. It provides a great view over the city, as well as a green and safe environment between the leafs — a place to nest. According to De Boer his treehouses meet the essence of what ‘home’ basically means: a place to sleep and rest. In the modern city one can do all additional activities such as eating, clubbing, working, in the urban network.

Building in a tree needs flexible techniques. De Boer has found a way to deal with the organic structure of the branches. A big inflatable beach ball between the branched structure of the tree adapts itself to the form of the ramification. The next step is to cover the ball with some twenty layers of old paper and paste. After getting dry, the outside of the structure is varnished, to protect it against bad weather conditions. The ball inside needs to get deflated and can be re-used for the next space. De Boer is planning to build a entire colony of these treehouses to replace the endless suburbs that currently shape the Dutch housing landscape. The ‘living forest’ should lead to better social relations as people share homely functions with their fellow citizens. In addition, it helps the urban dwellers to reconnect with nature.

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