Nestled in a natural Ouachita Mountain hillside along Lake Hamilton at Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Modus Studio created the Evans Tree House for the University of Arkansas. This tree house is the first of three planned for the garden that will provide an interactive educational experience for visiting children as part of an ambitious plan to bring children back into the woods. The tree house uses a rich visual and tactile environment to stimulate the mind and body to strengthen connections back to the natural world, while accommodating the needs of all users.
This unique structure is a defining small project for Modus Studio. From design to fabrication they were able to merge their childhood-earned knowledge of the natural world with their hard-earned think, make, do philosophy. Because of their own mostly-rural upbringing, it is easy to take for granted their strong connection to the creeks, forests, insects, and animals of Arkansas. However, many children in the modern world are unfortunately disconnected from this type of play.
The underlying theme of dendrology, the study of trees and wooded plants, drives both the form and program of the structure. The 113 fins comprising the thermalized Arkansas-sourced Southern Yellow Pine screen creates a semi-transparent and an evocative form dynamically shrouding multiple levels of spaces for children and adults alike that refocus attention to the natural wonders of the forest canopy.
The mysterious form, creative play of shadow and light and sound, exploration of material, and adventure that the Tree House provides becomes a magical experience within the Ouachita Forest. On the east and northern ends of the curving structure, the team created apertures that provide clears views of the forest. The larger opening, on the east, is partly covered by a perforated metal screen. A net was used to cover the smaller aperture at the “tail” of the treehouse. The metal mesh infill protects visitors from falling out while still allowing people to feel intimately connected to the forest.