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May 19, 2009

In my endless trawling for new projects that meld food and design, I came across the Yellow Treehouse Restaurant—an architect-designed eatery near Auckland, New Zealand, perched over 30 feet above the ground in a redwood tree.

yellow treehouse nite

It's a beautiful, birdcage-like wooden structure that spirals around the tall tree trunk and looks especially striking in nighttime photos, glowing from within through widely spaced vertical slats. Designed by Pacific Environments Architects, the restaurant stands nearly 30 feet wide and 40 feet high, and supports a full bar and up to 18 guests.

It took me a few minutes, after admiring the delicate chrysalis shape of the design and the concept of an eatery up a tree, to notice that the project is in fact an elaborate marketing campaign for the New Zealand Yellow Pages (rebranded without the "Pages" now, presumably to reflect its hipness to the digital age). "Yellow" doesn't just indicate the blonde wood structural fins or the soft interior lighting, but also the ubiquitous listing of businesses that fills up the 5-pound doorstop of paper most of us collect on our stoops a few times each year.

yellow treehouse int

While I was somewhat dismayed at having been snowed by a semi-fictional conceptual advertisement, I was also impressed by the creative execution of this campaign—and the restaurant did in fact open and serve tree-climbing diners from January until very recently. It has stopped taking reservations and will soon end its regular seatings and be handed over to Redwoods Forest as a rentable events space.

yellow treehouse ppl

The Yellow Treehouse website has extensive, web-smart documentation of the building process, complete with a reality TV-esque host who enthusiastically chronicles the architectural adventure and engages with interested audience members who stumble upon the eye-catching structure on their trips through the internet. The video of the building process is actually a really nice time-lapse illustration of constructing a sturdy structure through wrapped spirals of wood.

yellow treehouse walkway

Nevertheless, it brings up plenty of questions about this blurry adverterritory. The project is no less beautiful or interesting as a result of being a product of corporate promotion, but do we feel different about it once we know the backstory? Does the fact that it's been turned over to a public park add virtue to its origins? On the one hand, I want to shake my fist at the whole thing; on the other, I think a treehouse restaurant is a lovely idea and the design is beautiful. I wish the project were real and ongoing mostly because I'd love to eat there on some future visit to New Zealand. What do you think, Dwell readers?

images: Pacific Environments Architects

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