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Winning design for Treehouses at Kew Exhibition

UK and Europe 21 April 2022

Cundall is delighted to announce that, in partnership with Kevin Kelly Architects (KKA) and Stand Engineers, we have won the Pine tree category of the ‘Treehouses at Kew’ international design competition.

The ‘Treehouses at Kew’ exhibition will be a spectacular outdoor architectural exhibition of seven treehouses set across Kew Gardens’ iconic 320-acre landscape. The winning designs examine how trees are essential to human wellbeing. Of the seven treehouses, three were tendered for the design competition and centred around specific tree species and themes: a Norway Maple - play; a Pine tree - biomimicry; and a Silver Lime - sustainable materials.

The winning design, ‘An Audience with Nature’, for the Pine tree category highlights nature’s architecture and biomimicry to create an inhabitable amphitheatre. By applying digital programming to the centuries-old construction technique of willow weaving, the treehouse will feature a circle of pods mimicking pinecones which have been inspired by Kew’s research into the DNA and genome sequences of conifer trees. Being on the ground, the treehouse aims to be equally accessible to all, facilitating spatial experience both inside and out. Particular attention was given to the use and application of materials, prioritising circular and regenerative materials which can be sourced locally.

Sarah Linnell, Sustainability Engineer
based in Cundall’s London office, provided technical assistance to KKA in calculating the embodied carbon of the proposed design.

“Understanding the material impact of the design was particularly interesting. For example, the process of willow harvesting enables the carbon sequestering root system to be kept intact and alive. This allows for an easily replenishable source, but equally means there is no sequestered carbon within the willow strands themselves, as it is locked within the remaining soils - similar to grass. Use of biogenic materials alongside reclaimed materials, such as recycled concrete railway sleepers for the base detailing, and incorporating circular thinking led to an optimised low embodied carbon design. As a sculpture, I think it perfectly sets the stage to observe nature and provoke thinking about how best we can learn from it.”

The exhibition will be open to the public in Spring 2023, and alongside ‘An Audience with Nature’ will showcase winning designs ‘Polypore/Play that Fungi Music’ and ‘Linden Thing’.