Capturing people’s imagination was the challenge and Pacific Environments NZ Ltd, Architects delivered a very intriguing design and more. The plan accommodates 30 diners in a structure inspired by a chrysalis, a ‘pod-form’ wrapped around a tree trunk design.
The Design Inspiration:
The Architectural Inspiration largely came from the site -an open fairytale meadow and stream in the midst of a redwood forest plantation, understanding the nature of the tree/environment and the construction concerns about building sustainably in a living tree. An arborist advised on the best ways of looking after the tree’s health. The floor plan is circular, almost 10 metres in diameter, split and slid along the axis. This forms a natural opening to enter from one side along with a balcony from the other. It is accessed via a 60 metre long adventurous treetop walkway made from Redwood milled on site and is wheelchair compliant. The kitchen and toilet facilities remained on the ground leaving the treehouse floor flexible for a unique dining experience. The external vertical look comes from the rhythm of curved glue laminated timber fins of Pinus-Radiata, with Poplar battens ‘feathering’ between forming a permeable translucent skin. Acrylic sheeting forms the roof allowing sunlight to enter with the views for the diners to the treetops and stars in the nightsky.
By day, the 13m high structure is a natural and organic part of the forest behind but by night it transforms into a glowing lantern. The restaurant opened on time in mid December 2008 and was on budget! Sustainability is achieved through the selection of materials, little reliance on outside energy sources, natural ventilation and lighting, and a minimal footprint. It was a team approach throughout, from conceptual ideas, development of the design, through to designing the structure, materials selection, buildability, programming, Council approvals and construction.