When a client came to architect Aibek Almasov asking for a peaceful retreat in the mountains of Kazakhstan, Almasov decided to create a new type of treehouse. Rather than sitting on the branches, the home he designed wraps completely around a pine tree.
The four-story, cylindrical building is walled with glass to give views of the surrounding woods. There is no privacy, but that's less of a concern when squirrels are your only neighbors.
It’s fully equipped as a home, though the owners plan to use it only on the weekends. "If I was building it for myself I would live in it all the time," says Almasov, who says he’s drawn to rural areas far from noise and pollution.
Since the tree branches spread out to fill more space on the upper levels of the home, most living space is at the base of the building. The first floor is divided into a bathroom and kitchen, and a bed fits on the second floor.
The house sits about 14 miles outside the city of Almaty, Kazazhstan. There's no access to city services like electricity, so the architect is planning to use renewable energy sources. A geothermal heat pump will likely provide warmth in winter, and a solar coating on the glass surfaces may provide power. The house will also recycle grey water. Because there's no direct road access, the owners will have to hike or bike a short distance to reach the home.
Construction is set to begin next year and will have relatively little effect on the surrounding land, since the house will be prefabricated in a factory and only assembled onsite. Despite the change in habitat, the tree itself should stay healthy, says Almasov.
"It shouldn’t be affected because it will always be ventilated by open windows," he explains, and it will still have access to light and water. And, of course, unlike most construction projects in the woods, this one will let trees stay in place. "It’s better than cutting down dozens of trees in order to build a wooden house."
While it’s not exactly a design idea that can be replicated at a mass scale, Almasov says he already has interest from others who want similar homes.