If you've ever dreamed of taking a stroll high amongst the treetops, here is a fascinating exhibit that will let you do just that! Tree Adventure is a 450-foot walkway located in the Morris Arboretum at the University of Pennsylvania featuring “Out on a Limb,” a spectacular tree canopy walk that gives visitors a bird’s eye view of the world. Metcalfe Architecture & Design created the exhibit - complete with a ginormous bird's nest! - to be prefabricated, lightweight, non-invasive to the trees and made of sustainable materials.
When designing the high-flying exhibit, Metcalfe balanced perceived danger, actual safety, beautiful materials and real trees to make for a playful and exhilarating learning experience. The screen surrounding the pavilion is made from Western Red Cedar, which is 100-percent renewable and sustainably harvested. The “Boardwalk” consists of sustainably harvested back locust wood decking, locally cut (within 500 miles per LEED requirements). This wood is naturally bug and rot resistant, and has gained a new popularity because it is locally available and does not need chemical treatment like pressure treated lumber*.
The architects also considered not harming the trees to be one of their highest design priorities, and as such the exhibit is intended to tiptoe through the trees’ root systems using small foundations called micro-piles. According to Alan Metcalfe, “We are building this 450-foot walkway exhibit right through the middle of a museum collection of trees. Our exhibit focuses on their tree specimens. If we dug the foundations too close to the trees’ roots, we could kill the basis of our exhibit.”
Since the micro-piles and other structures were prefabricated offsite, tree and ground disturbance was minimal. The entire exhibit is also easy to relocate if the need arises in the future.
If you decide to indulge your childhood treehouse fantasies and head on over to Tree Adventure, let them know that we sent you!
* An issue that has been a contentious subject over the last five years with municipal governments (Atlantic City and Ocean City) arguing about the use of rot resistant pressure-treated or rainforest wood products for boardwalks. New York City now uses black locust in their park benches.