Existing Member?

oh darling, let's be adventurers! To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, To gain all while you give, to roam the roads of lands remote...

ANET TreeHaus Project

INDIA | Thursday, 20 February 2014 | Views [560]

When new visitors arrive at ANET (Andaman and Nicobar Islands Environmental Team) one is taken on a reconnaissance walk around the property. From the large timber hall and library at the front gate, via the dive shop and the social/dining/kitchen space overlooking the pond holding the harvested rainwater, past the vegetable garden and the huts for the researchers, interns and volunteers down to the mangroves and then curving around the mud flats and back into the forest past the huts of permanent staff and visitors.

When Ruth and I were taken on our 'reci' walk by Smita back in December she pointed out this elegant Banyan tree overlooking the mangroves and mentioned ANET's plans to build a tree house there in January. At that time I was too pre-occupied (scared) with ensuring I didn't step on any snakes and didn't therefore take much note of this exciting project.

Our visit to the Andamans in December left us genuinely in love with the place and with ANET in particular. So when learning about their intention to develop an Arts division to complement the already existing functions of Research, Education and Policy, with the building of an Art Studio Tree House marking the beginning of this development, we were both super excited about the possibility of returning - despite my fear of snakes. With ANET finding a way to squeeze us in at last minute it was the best decision of our trip to cancel Vietnam, sort out new visas and book return flights to India - destination Wandoor, South Andaman!

The Green Chakra Collective is based in Bangalore and has over the past 6 years developed their skills and knowledge in working with natural building materials - bamboo and mud wall constructions in particular. Their work is driven as much by design and spatial vision as it is by a deep appreciation for the materials they work with. They are true craftspeople taking on an environmental and educational responsibility within a country that is suffocating in its concrete dominated architectural world. It is led by Jackson Porretta, an American designer/architect, living in Bangalore, who has brought together a team of local craftsmen and versatile designers and artists from Srishti School of Art and Design. They have a long-standing personal relationship with ANET but the TreeHAUS Project was to become their first collaboration - set up as a workshop bringing together architects, artists, designers and the odd micro-brewer for an intense 12 days of building.

John Saw, a native of the Andaman Islands belonging to the Karen tribe of Mayabunder, is Mr ANET and has been there since its inception. He is the most humble man with the deepest appreciation of the intracies and interactions of the fragile ecosystems surrounding the Andamans and which ANET works towards protecting. John has planted a lot of the trees around the base and the elegant Banyan tree overlooking the mangroves is one of his children. It was a great testimony to John's faith in ANET's future as well as in Jackson & his team's respect for the tree in developing the design and detailing for the tree house.

The workshop lasted for 12 days; however the project took 4 weeks to complete. I arrived after 1 week of construction as a workshop participant but stayed on until it was finished. It was an incredibly intense and fun three weeks sharing knowledge and learning heaps about local materials, traditional carpentry skills and mud wall construction. The design was led by Jackson who was the first to acknowledge that the tree is the primary designer, and then secondly ensured the workshop really was a collective exercise. From initial concept, through to detailing, roof construction, and finishes around approach and access, this was a shared experience - in design and build.

The tree house appears to float in the tree, the moveable joint barely touching the branches supporting it, the entrance further emphasising movement and lightness taking the user into the heart of the tree before climbing up an elegant stair into the tree house itself. Once inside, and with the hatch door closed, a large space has been carved out within the tree from which one gets views out to the mangroves whilst sitting in the canopy of the forest. Arnab Basu, a landscape artist, designed and co-ordinated a phenomenal mural embedded in the mud panels enclosing the space, the mural reflecting the four ecosystems around you. The hexagonal shape of the platform is emphasised in the roof construction where a floating ring beam frames the sky above and creates a beautiful volume in which to house ANET's Art Studio.

The building of the tree house brought an amazing energy to ANET through a great mix of people whom all became great friends. From the construction itself to the evenings spent together around the campfire, the ethos was teamwork - from focused precise timber detailing, to mud dancing, to lungi dancing, to learning about beer brewing techniques and to sampling the local rice beer, this was weeks of laughter and fun - another testimony to the warm, creative atmosphere existing at ANET. The tree house attracted a lot of attention during the four weeks and has now become the first destination when new visitors are taken on their 'reci' walks!

The project was brilliantly documented by Pooja Gupta, an Edinburgh College of Art Animation exchange student!, and can be viewed below. 




Travel Answers about India

Do you have a travel question? Ask other World Nomads.