Located in Conner Prairie’s interactive History Park, this four-story structure and supporting architectural vignettes are designed to connect youth with the natural environment. As Indiana’s first Smithsonian affiliate, the Conner Prairie leadership desired to create a new outdoor exhibit to enhance the 1836-era themed Prairietown experience. The concept seemed simple: create a four story tree outpost in the forest with the idea of incorporating archeology, craft-making, and musical experiences, with nature as the foundation for these experiences.
The solution integrates extremely simple building techniques with a subdued architectural backbone. The design creatively worked around building codes for this assembly classified building. Instead of viewing this as an obstacle, the architects viewed the challenge as opportunity. The code-compliant exit stair is the structure’s main lateral bracing component, exposing the steel frame and x-bracing as a true expression of the structure. The stair frame is clad in 1 x 6 oak slats, randomly placed to emulate abandoned corn crib silos in nearby Indiana fields. The Treetop Outpost is topped with a galvanized, bullet-riddled barn roof ventilator found on the property.
The architects incorporated separate structures for the associated learning areas: The lean-to entry gateway/bridge, sail canopies to protect the dig area, and a craft/workshop shed, that opens up for activities and closes for security at night, with a jewel-box like quality.
The treetop outpost exhibit inspires curiosity, elevating the human spirit, and fostering meaningful interaction with nature for children and adults.