As a child, I aspired to make my home in the boughs of mighty trees. Something of this remained in me, and indeed as a species we remain mysteriously drawn to some ancestral arboreal cradle. This desire has given rise to tourist offerings: you can pay several hundred euros to spend a night or two in a wooden cabin built into a tree. No doubt there are ways of building such structures that are more or less detrimental to its living host, but even in the best cases, clearly such housing has no other purpose than to entertain our fantasies. We can’t build thousands of real homes in trees. The trees wouldn’t be thrilled about it, for one.
There are also other practical considerations that I won’t bother to enumerate.
Although we cannot all live in treehouses, we can live in “Tree Houses”, meaning houses whose design takes inspiration from trees. What would a tree-inspired home look like? How would it make us feel?
Notice how a tree occupies hardly any land. Visibly, it reaches into the sky to perform its magic with only the air and sun. Invisibly, it digs deep into the earth where other mysterious alchemy take place.
A tree is essentially a vertical form, in this way reminiscent of the human body. From its heights, we gain vision. Is not this desire to see farther and wider part of what drives a child to climb in trees? There is also a sense of greater security we feel from being up high.
With its surprising verticality and a bedroom at the top, the Light House taps into trees as a source of inspiration.
Although we cannot all live in treehouses, nor in “tree houses” as described above, we can live among the trees and benefit from the well-being they bring to us. In Japan, as in many ancient cultures, there are things that have been understood long before Western science endeavored to prove them. Must we scientifically prove the health benefits of spending time in nature? Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) has taken on in Japan since the 1980s as a state-supported form of preventive medicine. Both Japanese and South Korean researchers have demonstrated that spending time in the forest creates calming neuro-psychological effects through changes in the nervous system, reducing the stress hormone cortisol and boosting the immune system. Ironically, during the 2020 lockdown in hyper-rational France, access to the forest was banned in order to prevent stray forest-goers from spreading the virus. For me, this first-time experience of being barred access to nature served as a spark to set off the Light House project.