Tree House Retreat Made of Repurposed Materials

An artist crafts a sustainable tree house in the Puerto Rican tropics as an inventive take on the exhibition space.

Radamés Figueroa, who goes by "Juni," is an artist who set aside his brushes to live in the trees. Trained as a painter and now working with constructed environments, he seeks to express what living in the tropics of Puerto Rico—where he was born and where he now makes his art—is like, at least in its ideal form. "Tree House–Casa Club" (2013) is the result of the artist's collaborative efforts in the Naguabo forest, where he and his friends built a tree house from raw materials found by the artist in San Juan over the course of nine months, and from readily available materials in the forest, such as stones and water for cement mix. Part desire, part necessity, Figueroa created this habitat to express his experiences and his relaxed-life aesthetic, and do so in a country where too few exhibition spaces for artists exist. 

Figueroa grew up using what he calls "tropical readymades"—riffing on Duchamp's found object art—by turning his shoes and footballs into planters. With this spirit, he took his tree house concept and planted it, at least a suitable form of it, in the courtyard of the Whitney Museum of American Art as part of the 2014 Whitney Biennial. "Breaking the Ice" (2014), made of wood, electric heaters, neon, plexiglass, windows, clothes, printed fabric, a table and Marcel Breuer Cesca chairs, the artist offered museum-goers a chance to "get away from it all" by going on in.

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