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Tree House Wonderland Dallas designers channel their inner child through a whimsical competition b y a n d i be i e r m a n

Clockwise from far left: Leaves Imagination by HNTB and Brad Bell Studios; CORE by Jason Oliver of Corgan Associates; Casa Musgo, by Elizabeth Smidt, ASLA, of Great Gardens; Bamboo Basket by Chuck Armstrong, AIA, of Corgan Associates; Ultimate Blooms by Sebo Shim and R. Kelly Giddens of The Beck Group; and Arbor-Tropism by John Wilson, AIA, of FKP Architects


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TREE houses have always been structures that beckon the imagination and invite the curious inside to create grand tales and adventures. Now, the Dallas Arboretum invites the world to explore its Ultimate Tree Houses, a juried exhibit featuring innovative designs and modern architectural feats. Local designers designed and built the tree houses with the same creativity and imagination as they did when they were 10 years old, but with more resources. The competition opened in February, attracting 55 submittals; a jury then chose 13 entries and gave each designer a $2,500 stipend to realize their creations. The results put a grown-up spin on the conventional notion of the platform-and-rope-ladder model. The designs explore the use of vertical and horizontal space, providing whimsical escapes

like a hut made of bamboo, a gigantic pot and watering can, and fabric screens amid branches of one of the arboretum’s oldest trees. Each house directs attention to the tree at its center, and the structures are subjected to the elements. “The designs really did engage the trees in a creative way,” said Tipton Housewright, AIA. A member of the arboretum’s board, Housewright served as the architectural liaison for the exhibit. “There is a lot of modernism displayed,” he noted, “as well as abstraction and creativity. The use of non-traditional forms and materials make everyone rethink what a tree house might be.” The Ultimate Tree Houses exhibit runs through Dec. 31. For more information, visit Andi Beierman is a freelance graphic designer in Austin.

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