university of wisconsin - milwaukee
Treehouse, a residence hall for the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, sits at a quiet corner of campus. To its west is a large natural area, called the Downer Woods, which it directly engages.
Lifting the structure in multiple locations allows neighbors and pedestrians a view into the forest. Residents of the Treehouse get to reside in the woods, not only from their rooms, all facing the woods, but together in gathering spaces both indoor and outdoor.
The structure of the building mimics the Downer Woods by using wood materials for the majority of the project. Making the columns askew, matching the natural growth of trees, which gives an illusionary effect. Standing in the forest looking towards the building, it becomes difficult to tell where the forest ends and the residence hall begins.
The first level of Treehouse is used for classrooms, meditation spaces, and flexible programs so students from across campus can help create a lively and engaging environment.
Treehouse is designed to be socially connected but also a hideaway in the woods. All rooms are off the ground plane and face the Downer Woods turning each room into a personal treehouse.
When a resident wants to be social or needs a new environment to study, they can use the various social spaces throughout the building. Many of these spaces are more personal into the forest, allowing for a more tranquil environment to study.
Habitable green roofs are only a few steps away for all residents to catch some sun, get some fresh air, or join some fellow residents hanging out.
Treehouse is an environmentally conscious residence hall making use of a variety of sustainable methods.
In plan, Treehouse weaves between pockets of forest growth and removes as few trees as possible. Those trees that did get removed were recycled using the process below.
Treehouse uses yakisugi, which is the product of the shou sugi ban process of burning wood panels. Yakisugi is naturally fire-resistant, water repellent, and, if maintained, can last for 80 plus years.
In the experiments below, I used three species of local wood: eastern pine, red cedar, and maple. I brought them to two levels of char. A deep char and a medium char. I used natural tung oil to finish and seal the yakisugi boards.
Finally, lifting the treehouse off the ground minimizes disruption to existing ecosystems and creates new ones with gardens on multiples floors. Using rainwater collection, the structure self hydrates the gardens, which serve a double purpose of keeping the internal temperature balanced year-round and provide a second space for the students.