“Those who are inspired by a model other than Nature, a mistress above all masters, are labouring in vain.”
- Leonardo Da Vinci
Since the 20thcentury, biomimicry has become a named, conscious branch of invention and design that looks to the innate technology found in nature for its inspiration. Mimicking form and design found in nature, at its most basic, biomimicry looks at and emulates biological process systems and models of form to solve human problems. It analyses natural processes, particularly examining what makes them sustainable and integrates these processes into the environment. A perfect example of biomimicry can be seen in the magnificent, breath-taking designs of Antony Gibbon and his tree house designs which have sparked interest all over the world due to their incredible shapes that mimic organic forms that exist in nature. At first glance, these immense structures, that blend so beautifully in the environment in which they are designed, make one feel as though one has been transported into a fairy tale world, completely in sync with nature and all its splendour.
Antony Gibbon grew up in a small town just outside Liverpool on the Wirral Peninsula, overlooking the River Dee and the Welsh hills. The beauty of his surroundings as a child certainly had a role to play in his astute awareness of the environment and contributed massively to the driving force behind his desire to use sustainable materials in his designs wherever possible. As a young boy, he used to build tree houses and experiment with different structures that he could fashion out of wood. His hands on approach to his work and reverence for nature is something that has grown with him into adulthood and translated into the magnificent structures he designs today.
Gibbon travels extensively and continues to draw inspiration wherever he goes. “Nature and different cultures inspire me the most, nature really is the best designer we have,” he says. “I have always been interested in nature and organic forms since a very young age. I’ve been fortunate to travel to many places around the world in my youth, drawing inspiration from using different materials and creating different forms that mimic the environment in which they’re in. Different cultures inspire me too, the use of materials to hand craft objects is something I really admire.”
Gibbon’s sustainable forest dwelling concepts, and especially his tree house homes, are nothing short of extraordinary. The four design concepts of the tree houses (The Nook, The Embryo, Inhabit Tree House and The Roost) are all designed to be lived in or used as hotels, retreats, office spaces or workshops.
Inspired by the Native American teepee structure, The Nook comprises of a wooden frame which is covered in slatted wooden panels. It can be outfitted with a bed, toilet and shower and can accommodate a desk and shutters. The wooden panels, angled to keep out the rain or able to open in some sections allowing for natural ventilation. Suitable for difficult terrain, The Nook can be built in forests, on slopes and in coastal areas and can even float thanks to the recycled containers that serve as a pontoon underneath the structure.
The Embryo, a cylindrical two-story tree structure resembles an extension of the tree trunk (attached by using a series of braces that do not cause any damage to the tree) and reinforces Gibbons’ notion that our homes should be an extension of nature. Capable of sleeping up to four people, The Embryo’s entrance is through a hatch door which leads to the first floor and then steps, that spiral upwards on the internal walls of the cylinder, lead to the second floor. “The Embryo derives its name from the early stages of development in nature and how we need to re address the way we live in today’s society that is more ecological and simpler way of living than consuming our earth’s resources,” explains Gibbon.
Unlike the others, Inhabit Treehouse (of which he has just completed a magnificent project in New York) is built on stilts and is not dependent on a tree for support so can be installed in a number of settings. The raised structures are accessible by a ladder that leads to a trap door under the dwelling – a fun element for an adult treehouse! Another ladder inside the structure leads to a suspended secondary sleeping area. Large windows cover entire walls of the treehouse and the geometric form, with two opposing walls set at slight angles to maximise the amount of light that enters, also offer some extraordinary views.
The Roost treehouse, undeniably the most other-worldly, futuristic of the lot, has been described as resembling a dignified treetop residence that appears to be taken straight from the forest homes of Lothlorien in Lord of the Rings. The Roost treehouse is made up of a series of pod-like capsules that enclose a central spiral staircase which leads to an outdoor platform, high in the tree’s canopy, offering spectacular views of the space it is constructed in. All capsules are connected by staircases and the treehouse provides interior space for sleeping with each capsule being able to hold about two people.
All structures are available without the need of trees for support and can, instead, be supported by a central pole. Gibbon’s has thought of everything and his work is truly inspirational. His passion for working with nature and abiding by the timeless design that is found in nature has translated into something quite extraordinary. And, let’s be honest. No matter our age, who doesn’t love the thrill of a treehouse?
Antony Gibbon is an architect, furniture designer and interior designer. To view the full range of his incredible work visit www.antonygibbondesigns.com.
TEXT © Julie Graham