August 4, 2021

Treetop Retreat: Woodnest by Helen & Hard

Meghan Grech
Treetop Retreat: Woodnest by Helen & Hard
These cabins in the Norwegian woods provide a different perspective on the local landscape.

Situated just a twenty minutes’ walk from the Norwegian town of Odda, two new cabins sit not on the forest floor, but among the treetops. Designed by local architects Helen & Hard, the Woodnest treehouses are both suspended five to six metres above the steep hillside, providing a quiet place for contemplating nature.

For each cabin, a steel collar sits around the trunk of a living pine tree, with glue-laminated timber circling this centre to provide the building’s frame. With the structures sculpted around individual trees in this way, the cabins allow visitors to feel as though they are living on branches. The interior of each treehouse is just fifteen square metres, but manages to fit a bathroom, a kitchen, a living space, and a sleeping area for up to four people. Large windows surrounding the building open up the space, providing an uninterrupted view of the surrounding forest, hills, and the vast fjord below.

[O]ur aim was to create a space that truly embodies what it means to dwell in nature.
HELEN & HARD ARCHITECTURE STUDIO

Suspending the cabins from tree trunks wasn’t the only way Helen & Hard experimented with the material potential of wood. Wooden shingles, often seen on roofs, coat the bottom half of the exterior walls, giving the cabins a pleasant upside-down look. These tiles have been left untreated so that they will gradually weather and brown until they blend in with the surrounding tree trunks, making it seem as though the treehouses really grew with the natural world around them. For the interior design, the walls, ceiling, flooring, and fitted furniture were all also made from wood, referencing the Norwegian tradition of timber construction and enhancing the sense of coexisting with nature.

Helen & Hard perfectly summarise their Woodnests as ‘a project that quietly sits in an extraordinary situation’. The concept and aesthetic of cabins suspended among the trees are as astonishing as the beautiful landscape that surrounds them. However, it is the humility of the cabins’ small size and the use of wooden materials that truly support their purpose as places for connecting to the natural world.

For more residential architecture in unique places, check out our feature on i29 architect’s Floating Home.

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