Pacific Environments Architects
Yellow Treehouse - Pacific Environments Architects
Tue 20 Oct 2009

New Zealand Institute of Architects Branch Award
New Zealand Institute of Design - BEST Awards; Gold Award
New Zealand Institue of Building; Excellence Award
World Architecture Awards - Finalist
treehouse restaurant cafe yellow pacific environments architects

View the Campbell Live and Breakfast news feature at the link below :

 It’s not often that a commission to design a treehouse is offered, so when Colenso BBDO – on behalf of Yellow Pages  briefed Pacific Environments Architects  for a ‘reality’ TV advert for an off-the-wall functioning restaurant, Pacific Environments jumped at the opportunity. Working alongside Tracey Collins and her team , the idea was to source all products and services through Yellow Pages listings (the book, online and mobile).  It  has paid us to be in Yellow – that’s how we were chosen and we are getting a great profile as a result.

PEL assisted project managers The Building Intelligence Group, Colenso BBDO and  Yellow in the selection of the enormous Redwood tree on which the treehouse is to be built which is over 40m high and 1.7m diameter at the base, on a site north of Auckland.

The concept proved challenging and encompassed a range of consultants to get both Resource Consent, Building Consent and construction underway in a very limited time.   We’ve never been involved in a project quite like this before !

Download the Yellow Press Release here



















The concept is driven by the ‘enchanted’ site which is raised above an open meadow and meandering stream on the edge of the woods.

The tree-house concept is reminiscent of childhood dreams and playtime, fairy stories of enchantment and imagination . It’s inspired through many forms found in nature -the chrysalis/cocoon protecting the emerging butterfly/moth, perhaps an onion/garlic clove form hung out to dry. It is also seen as a lantern, a beacon at night that simply glows yet during the day it might be a semi camouflaged growth, or a tree fort that provides an outlook and that offers refuge.The plan form also has loose similarities to a sea shell with the open ends spiralling to the centre .

It’s the treehouse we all dreamed of as children but could only do as an adult fantasy.

Access is via a 60m tree-top ‘accessible’ walkway –an adventure in itself.

The selected site and tree had to meet a myriad of functional requirements -18 seated people and waiting staff in relative comfort complete with a bar; gaining correct camera angles with associated light qualities for filming the adverts, web cam and stills, have unobstructed views into the valley and entrance to the site and structural soundness . The final selected tree is one of the larger trees on the site and sits above a steep part of the site which accentuates the tree's height. Kitchen/catering facilities and toilets are at ground level. 

The Architectural component embodies a simple oval form wrapped ‘organically’ around the trunk and structurally tied at top and bottom, with a circular plan that is split apart on the axis with the rear floor portion raised. This allows the approach from the rear via a playful tree-top walkway experience, slipping inside the exposed face of the pod and being enchanted by the juxtaposition of being in an enclosed space that is also quite 'open' and permeable to the treetop views. There is also a ‘Juliet’ deck opposite the entrance that looks down the valley.

The scale and form of the tree-house creates a memorable statement without dominating it’s setting. While it’s natural ‘organic’ form sits comfortably, the rhythm of the various materials retains it’s strong architectural statement. The verticality of the fins mimics the verticality of the redwoods and enable the building to naturally ‘blend’ into it’s setting, as though it were a natural growth.


It sits almost 10m wide and over 12m high, with the split-level floor sitting 10m off the ground. Timber trusses form the main structure. The curved fins are glue-laminated pine, plantation poplar has been used for the slats and redwood milled from the site used in the walkway balustrading. Openings are formed for windows by leaving spaces between the slats/fins that keeps the overall form yet affords a variety of openness for the views and light and closes down toward the rear. To loosen the regularity of the elements, steel is wrapped arbitrarily around the pod. Tying this up at the top and base has a sense of greater connection with the tree.

It is designed to be weather resistant using acrylic sheeting fixed to the roof under the fins with vertical roll-down café-style blinds within. Lighting is an important architectural component enhancing and changing the mood, with discreet lighting within the walkway and up-lighting within the tree house. 

A team of consultants working alongside the architects includes fire and structural engineers (Holmes Consulting Group), town planners and arborists to meet functional and Building Code requirements as well as NZ Strong our builders.

 View   for ongoing updates, blog, video and still footage with live webcam images.

 Visit for more information about the architects.

 The treehouse is to be completed on the 12th December 08.

View the Breakfast TV media clip :

Thanks Yellow –Maree, Jo and your team for your trust. How does a client ever get to trust a project this crazy? I suppose the results speak volumes, guys. But to get your overwhelming buy-in and support was such a huge boost.

Thanks Paul, Ngaio and your Colenso BBDO team who dreamed this crazy idea up and had the balls to run with it. The entire team are behind you guys!

Thanks Gareth, Blair, Joe, Craige and The Building Intelligence Team –they were the first contacted by Colenso BBDO on behalf of Yellow and who were the initiators for getting the entire team on board, and Tracey got the credit?

Pacific Environments Architects –Lucy, Pete and inspirational team, ably supported by One to One Hundred –Dave who pulled together the early photo montages, and for the first time the end result is at least as good as the image! Also Shane Inder Design who used his Industrial Design skills to model the complex form and assist with the drawings.

Holmes Group and Fire team –John, Chris and Martin, also Peter Boardman who peer-reviewed their work –now if that is not trust???

NZ Strong –Megan who ran the entire site, and Paddy and team, and their entire construction crew –awesome effort.

ECC lighting –wait for the night shots, but Renee may flick her photos through??

McIntosh Laminates - Sandy, the timber fins are outstanding.

PSP –acrylic roofing and acrylic lighting inserts

Electricians, surveyors, contractors from everywhere……

There’s so many –check the website………you don’t get teams that come together this well and achieve what these guys have done and the short time to do it.

Then there have been all the camera crews, Mike, Dan …..and the lists grow exponentially!  It was certainly a first working around the film guys who managed to infiltrate every aspect of the project for the best shots. But it was fun.

What’s the sequel, Colenso BBDO?


































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