Gallery: New Zealand’s Whimsical Yellow Treehouse Restaurant Towers Abo...


The Yellow Treehouse Restaurant by New Zealand based Pacific Environments Architects Ltd. (PEL) is a stunning architectural feat perched high above a redwood forest. Appearing for all the world like an enormous chrysalis grafted onto a 40-meter-high redwood tree, the project is constructed of plantation poplar slats, redwood balustrading milled at the site, and it makes extensive use of natural lighting throughout.

When approached by the Yellow Pages to design a treehouse, PEL jumped at the chance. “The tree-house concept is reminiscent of childhood dreams and playtime, fairy stories of enchantment and imagination,” say PEL. “It’s the treehouse we all dreamed of as children but could only do as an adult fantasy.” The project is indeed magical, located on a rise near the edge of a wood overlooking a stream. The eighteen seat cafe—10m wide and 12m high, with kitchen and lavatories on the ground—is sure to be a hit, but sustainability questions remain.

While we love the organic design of the treehouse and applaud its unique integration into the landscape, we wonder just how ‘green’ the project really is. Yes, glulam beams are often a great, renewable choice for green building with less waste and a smaller carbon footprint than steel or concrete. And when building with wood, local harvesting and milling produces the smallest footprint possible. With architectural merits like these, what’s to complain about?

The question is an ongoing architect’s dilemma; is a client’s political, ethical, religious and/or environmental affiliation important? The Yellow Pages is a case-in-point. The treehouse project is part of a large-scale marketing effort by Yellow Pages to promote their services. The campaign includes a spokes-model, a blog, live webcam, contests, and more. Nothing wrong with a little publicity, right?

However, every year in the United States alone 500 million directories are printed—enough for nearly 2 books for every person in the country—that’s 9 million trees harvested, 1.6 billion pounds of paper consumed, 7.2 million barrels of oil spent in processing, and so on. The E.P.A. estimates that directories account for up to 5% of total landfill waste. Should this make a difference to an architect? We think it should. What do you think?

+ Pacific Environments Architects Ltd.

+ Yellow Treehouse + Yellow Pages Goes Green

Via World Architecture News


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  1. SRE November 16, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    Hi guys, isn’t this a great treehouse project? I actually know the architect really well and have chatted with him a few times on this project. The idea of the Yellow Pages Treehouse campaign was that using Yellow tools – online and yes phone books (- which you can opt out of having here in NZ therefore only an appropriate number of books are printed, limiting waste as much as possible), you can create amazing projects like this, from local sources and people. Isn’t that a fantastic idea? And if you followed the ads, or watch them online this is explained.
    As for the life of the tree, yes it is an unknown as to how long it will survive, but that was considered and an arborist was involved from the beginning of the project. Also the tree is on a site where it would have eventually been chopped down for construction materials, so the fact that it is still standing 6 years later isn’t too bad? And its just opened its doors again for the summer season of events.
    While everyone’s views are important, and every design brings up new ideas and debates, maybe its best to get all the information, and even go to the source before publishing opinions like that. Sustainability is a big thing at the moment, but do people actually look at the whole lifecycle? You’ve just remodeled your home, and had a carpet which is made from 90% recycled material (this is a made up example to prove a point btw) laid. And the carpet guys say that once you have finished with the carpet 10 years down the track they will come collect it, and have it recycled to make carpet lining. Well thats all well and good, but where will it be recycled? In your home town? In your country? In NZ we don’t have large recycling plants so all our plastic recycling is sent to China. How sustainable is that? But back to the carpet, how much oil and fuel is then used to reform the old carpet into a new roll? Theres lots to consider, but you need to have done your research on claims like this to make an informed decision.

  2. gondola April 19, 2014 at 12:47 am

    Beautiful… hemp for the paper and the ink and most all other building materials for that matter. Save the forests, build a tree cafe and phone book recycling center.. even regular phone books biodegrade.

  3. Jennifer Armstrong April 8, 2014 at 3:22 am

    How excellent. More like this please. It is the way of the future. Say no to the ostentatious straight lines of modernity.

  4. Vinay Amba January 19, 2013 at 6:45 am

    Its really very good design of architects, really beautifull thanks to the designers/creators it shows the imagination of creation extra ordinary job,pl also visit our restaurant web
    best wishes to all the people created,
    Vinay Amba

  5. southingtonian August 22, 2011 at 2:55 am

    Although it is a beautiful and innovative design, I must agree with NTC. Without allowances in the design for the life and growth of the tree, the cafe will be the death of it.

  6. NTC July 15, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Well “winddncr” i do think your somehow right…. first of all, i´am certainly a positive thinker! And yes i totally agree on your point that we can learn from things, see the positive in it and move on….in this case those details have been pointed out and been mentioned to the people responsible for this and that should be critzized! I´am more than pro sustainable design but do it true and honest and dont ingnore these important facts and details connected to it! I´am more than willing and allways have been in puting up with information needed to help realising a projekt like this. From an architect point of view doubtless a great achievement but in the whole picture and terms of sustainability i think its not true in its approach! …..but hey lets move on and lets make the next one better 😉 Someone you loves trees and been working with them basiclly my whole life 😉

  7. winddncr July 14, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I think it is a great project and very inspirational. There may be some questions as to it´s environmental impact but why can´t we take the positive from it and move forward finding better solutions. Rather than be negative and put it down because it is not a perfect solution. Our future lies in Hope not negativity.
    To the Architects well done. To the environmentalist how about supporting solutions rather than putting ideas down.

  8. NTC August 30, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Well yes its great in design and looks but from an Arborist´s point of view a totally not sustainable solution…..bolts and pipes straight trough the trunks, damaged rootarea and no response to any recommendations of Arborists giving advice.

  9. yurtstead June 3, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    This is a great treehouse! I am a treehouse builder my self and I love the use of the formed gluelams in this design. my only question do you get wet if it rains?

    here is link to my treehouses

  10. aqaman November 20, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Check out the website for the project @ – the live webcam of the build is pretty cool!

  11. anne of carversville November 19, 2008 at 8:15 am

    Thanks so much for asking the right questions around fantastic design project. Supporting conscientious, creative design becomes more complicated every day. Your asking good questions inspired me to ask them also. Answers are in short supply.

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