To appreciate the Treehouse in all its beauty and simplicity one must be prepared to listen. The house shows a conversation, a genuine dialogue between two architectural minds. Even if belonging to distinct cultural worlds, HHF and Ai Weiwei produce a common language through the pentagonal layout of the house; the arrangement of pentagons becomes, more than just an architectonic syntax, but an organic will.
Whilst a geometric shape may strike us as simple, geometric repetition itself can be complex itself. Regular pentagons do not tessellate; it is not possible to arrange them without leaving remnants. But as in the silences of a conversation, the left out spaces become essential for the layout of the house; it is through these spaces that the building communicates the most subtle aspects of its form. The offcuts blur the underlying pattern and allow the interplay of light and shadow, of natural and inhabited space; they achieve an intimate exterior and a soothing interiority.
Removing the walls of the polygon resignifies the thresholds and windows of the house as mediators between worlds. The house replicates a space of organic transitions: the building incorporates itself to the gradient of the land site and makes the existing trees and water an integral part of its environment. The materials and details of the building blend in the austere and restrained harshness of nature unaffected by time: dark hardwood flooring, windows and shutters; concrete made with bamboo boarding.
The Treehouse becomes a bas-relief of the tree shade. Its polygonal pattern recreates the shade’s atmosphere and movement: much like the overlapping leaves and branch out of a tree canopy, it generates textures of dappled light and sound spaces of different densities. The wood shutters produce the modesty of a lattice screen. The cantilevers projected over the lake evoke the graceful swaying movements of the willow branches in the wind.
If architecture congeals harmony, the Treehouse is a space of powerful silence and simplicity, that emphasizes listening to spiritual tranquility.
Project: HHF and Ai Weiwei
Program: Guest House for a Golf Club
Location: Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China
Design Phase and Construction: 2006–2007, uncompleted
Team: HERLACH HARTMANN FROMMENWILER with Mick Lehmann, Tom Strub, Fumiko Takahama
Area: 400 m2
Client: Xue Shan Shui Cheng Tourism & Real Estate Development Co.