An Atypical Tree House
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While most tree houses have a trunk running vertically, this structure floats above the tree, suggesting the delicate tension between nature and the built environment. Serving as an inhabitable sculpture – a refuge, a gallery and a guest cottage – it's perched atop a hill and overlooks canyon vistas, downtown Los Angeles and the Getty Center.

The tree house is perched on a hill that offers canyon vistas and views of downtown L. A. and the Getty Museum.

The tree house is perched on a hill that offers canyon vistas and views of downtown L. A. and the Getty Museum.

Photo by Eric Staudenmaier

 

A clerestory around the perimeter of the butterfly roof gives an illusion that the roof floats over the box of the tree house.

A clerestory around the perimeter of the butterfly roof gives an illusion that the roof floats over the box of the tree house.

Photo by Eric Staudenmaier

Rockefeller Partners Architects spent about eight months on the design. “It was a complex little puzzle,” said Chris Kempel, the project’s architect. “It was like taking a box and poking it with chopsticks,” he said about five slightly canted steel columns that pierce its cedar exterior.  “We had a bunch of fun with it.”

To reconnect back to the fallen tree, the architects carved a portal in the walnut floor, affording a view of the inspiration for the house itself.

To reconnect back to the fallen tree, the architects carved a portal in the walnut floor, affording a view of the inspiration for the house itself.

Photo by Eric Staudenmaier

A mere 172 square feet, the tree house in the hills of Brentwood in Los Angeles was designed by Rockefeller Partners Architects, Inc. as a refuge, gallery and guest cottage.

A mere 172 square feet, the tree house in the hills of Brentwood in Los Angeles was designed by Rockefeller Partners Architects, Inc. as a refuge, gallery and guest cottage.

Photo by Eric Staudenmaier

Check out the slideshow to see more images of the project.
 

The entry and stairs to the tree house complex was sculpted from exposed, unpainted concrete, designed to suggest the ladder of a traditional tree house.

The entry and stairs to the tree house complex was sculpted from exposed, unpainted concrete, designed to suggest the ladder of a traditional tree house.

Photo by Eric Staudenmaier
The tree house serves also as temporary guest quarters, with modern-day amenities like a daybed, a sink, a toilet, a small refrigerator, a fireplace and a microwave.

The tree house serves also as temporary guest quarters, with modern-day amenities like a daybed, a sink, a toilet, a small refrigerator, a fireplace and a microwave.

Photo by Eric Staudenmaier
Materials and craft play a significant role inside and out. The columns are Type 316 stainless steel – almost nautical grade. Floors and walls are walnut; windows are mahogany.

Materials and craft play a significant role inside and out. The columns are Type 316 stainless steel – almost nautical grade. Floors and walls are walnut; windows are mahogany.

Photo by Eric Staudenmaier
Metaphorically, architect Chris Kempel said, the Kynar-painted steel columns are trees. “It was like taking a box and poking it with chopsticks.”

Metaphorically, architect Chris Kempel said, the Kynar-painted steel columns are trees. “It was like taking a box and poking it with chopsticks.”

Photo by Eric Staudenmaier
The architects took about eight months to design the tree house. Construction of the inhabitable sculpture, with its studio and lounge, took another 18 months.

The architects took about eight months to design the tree house. Construction of the inhabitable sculpture, with its studio and lounge, took another 18 months.

Photo by Eric Staudenmaier
The outdoor shower below the tree house was shaped and formed from concrete to be a truly private experience.

The outdoor shower below the tree house was shaped and formed from concrete to be a truly private experience.

Photo by Eric Staudenmaier
Large floor-to-ceiling windows and doors provide abundant natural light and ventilation.

Large floor-to-ceiling windows and doors provide abundant natural light and ventilation.

Photo by Eric Staudenmaier
Details
Project: Brentwood Tree House
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