Berlin is full of trees that tower over residents in the urban parks and the forests that fringe the city. So it was only a matter of time before someone decided to build a house that gives an idea of what it must be like to live in a tree.
“There is a connection you have to trees, a feeling of height and majesty,” said tree house architect Andreas Wenning. “This is a place where you consciously want to spend your time,” he said.
Mr. Wenning, who has built tree houses around the world, has designed a set of tree-height apartments for Berlin on commission for entrepreneur Kolja Stegemann, who runs an online property agency that specializes up market, highly stylized properties. Mr. Wenning sent over a few sketches, so that Mr. Stegemann could file for building permits. With all the paperwork in order, work began on the first tree houses in a far leafy corner of south-west of Berlin.
The result, finished in 2013, are a set of stylish houses set high up, accessed by steel steps that climb up to a porch. The first guests include a couple that spent their honeymoon there, and another renter from Bavaria that rented the space for one year. The rent starts at around €160 ($210) for a night.
Urban tree house hotels are becoming fashionable. They have already sprung up in Peru, Massachusetts, South Africa and the German city of Görlitz on the Polish border.
Mr. Wenning built his first tree house in his own backyard at home, as a quiet retreat. He has since built 50 such houses in places in Europe, the United States and South America – every single one differs from the previous one, he said.
Tree houses have a long history. In countries such as Indonesia, the structures provide protection from regular floods and earthquakes. But since the 1990s, they have attracted the attention of architects and amateur builders, drawn by the idea of building in the air. As part of the trend, artists and collectors too have begun to hang sculptures high. The buildings are often built with a touch of whimsy. The houses resemble birds’ nests, wooden cottages, fairytale castles and even space ships.
Mr. Wenning’s Berlin houses are different from his previous work, as they were built on a stilts with a platform and are located in the suburban area of Berlin. But he said it has the same atmosphere as all his other tree houses. “Those small rooms are very intense,” Mr. Wennings said. “A person can really concentrate. It also changes your perspective because the view to the outside is different to anything else.”
When building tree houses, Mr. Wenning seeks to create an atmosphere of an ocean liner, using small spaces well and creating a relationship with the natural surroundings. His tree houses resemble Bauhaus-designs that feature straight lines and leave out any unnecessary details.
“I like using materials that are at hand,” he said. “As an architect, I find it important to recognize a certain design intention when looking at a building.”
The tree houses in Berlin are designed for city-dwellers who still want a flat screen TV, a fridge freezer and a comfortable bathroom, but also want to breakfast surrounded by nature.
The Berlin tree houses are built on land bought by Mr. Stegemann’s grandfather 50 years ago. The land had not been cleared, and was filled with thick bushes and trees. It is located five minutes from a lake, surrounded by a cluster of villas and modern residential family houses and close to a subway station that takes passengers back downtown.
“The interior is high quality, maybe even luxurious,” said Mr. Stegemann. “But the true luxury is the environment. There is nothing more beautiful than lying here, to dream with trees at night and to have a ray of sunlight that passes through the branches and wakes you up in the morning.”
This story first appeared in Der Tagesspiegel. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org