The Treehouse Project



Student: Livia Azevedo
Mentor: Jon Mulhern
Domains: Visual Arts & Science (Engineering)
Faculty Grader: Ned Smyth

Documentation of Product

Artist Statement:

Construction is an industry in which each project depends on a team of people specialized in various trades, including a project manager, an architect, and an array of engineers. I developed a passion for architecture and structural engineering early in high school. I believed construction to be an ideal Senior Project focus for me. But what should I construct? I brainstormed about structures like dollhouses and playhouses, but neither intrigued me. Then a friend of mine had a brainchild: design and build a Treehouse. I always appreciated personal spaces, and building my own Treehouse seemed like a rite of passage. Having taken a range of engineering and architecture courses through out the school years and summers and I believed I was equipped with enough basic knowledge to take on this project.

However, I realized I lacked anything but a couple of weeks experience in the woodworking shop, assembling sets for the high school spring musical, I chose a mentor I knew would allow me to become his protégée: the school’s shop leader, who is a master carpenter. We agreed from the beginning that this was to be no childish summer creation. My Treehouse would be a wonder to observe and experience. Of course, achieving this goal would not be easy. Spanning from mid September to beginning of January I had to take into account weather, budget, and labor time. As the first couple months ran by I began to register my need for an extra pair of hands, so I recruited an outside mentor, Juan. With his guidance I was able to take parts of the process in strides, although, my aspirations were still a bit too ambitious to fit within my allotted time window.

Once I was able to fully grasp the limits that I was given I met with my father, Juan, and my mentor. We brainstormed ideas to minimize cost, and work. In the end we did not have to change too much, but we did where it counted. Fist, I had to rethink my design. I decided to move the structure forward and cut out the front portion, so that I could still have two doors, but not need two decks. Instead of horizontal siding we went with t11, which comes in sheets of plywood that we were able to cut and screw on rather efficiently. The biggest issue came with the roof. Due to my stubbornness I was fixated on creating an octagonal structure that has an extremely complicated roof. Creating the supports, putting plywood on each portion, and shingling it were definitely the most time consuming of the whole process, although, I regret none of my decisions no matter how unnecessarily tedious. I am fully satisfied with my creation and would not want it any other way.

When selecting this project through I could not have anticipated its arduousness. Each step was a challenge, pushing me to new limits. I conquered my fear of heights and gained enough knowledge to replicate the process on my own in the future. Some mornings I would wake up sore and others I would have to head out into storms or freezing degrees in order to ensure I would meet my deadline. At points the endeavor became too strenuous, so much so that I would break down in tears unable to process the scale of my undertaking. Luckily, I had both my mentor and father to reassure me that I would be able to complete the construction and that I had the support of them and many others. With their help I was able to achieve my goals in time before the snow came.

Exhibition & Presentation Summary

Catalog Entry:

Eager to incorporate my passion for architectural design and structural engineering into my senior project I decided to construct a Treehouse. Not only was I able to design my own personal space within nature, I was also able to learn construction and woodworking techniques. Working closely with my mentor and a carpenter I went from building parts of the set for the spring musical to building a fully functional structure up in the trees.


Works Consulted

Bahamón, Alejandro. Treehouses: Living a Dream. New York: Collins Design, 2005. Print.

Nelson, Peter, and Gerry Hadden. Home Tree Home: Principles of Treehouse Construction and Other Tall Tales. New York, NY, U.S.A.: Penguin, 1997. Print.

Wenning, Andreas. Treehouses: Small Spaces in Nature. Berlin: DOM Publ., 2012. Print.

Treehouse Masters. Animal Planet. N.d. Television.

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