The Wood Foam Tree House returns waste from the timber industry back to a forest setting by combining sawdust, wood shavings, and other wooden byproducts with a foaming agent, which produces a novel material: wood foam. While this material has a history before Ordinary’s application (not the least through industrial designers Marjan van Aubel and James Shaw’s excellent Well Proven Chair project), to the best of our knowledge, it has not been previously proposed as a building material at the architectural scale.
Using for our foaming agent a bioresin composition substantially free of aprotic solvents that chemically decompose in the presence of water, sustainable concerns are as always at top of the agenda as we work towards creating a building from matter that would otherwise (at best) simply be burnt for fuel. The tree house design is programmatically and conceptually linked to the Tree Hotel in the small town of Harads outside Luleå in northern Sweden. Construction is exceptionally quick, as an armature is sprayed with the foam, which then expands to more than five times its original volume before hardening.
Conceived as a series of volumes along a meandering path through the woods, the lightweight building is lifted off the ground and supported by existing trees on the site. In this way, it aligns with German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk’s notion (in Spheres Theory: Talking to Myself About the Poetics of Space, a 2009 lecture at Harvard University during which Sloterdijk asked himself questions on stage) of “an architectural foam, a multi-chambered system made up of relatively stabilised personal worlds”. The foam structure of the material is conceptually linked to and recursively introduced as the building’s volumetric and spatial template, organised as a series of linked inhabitable unité d’habitation cells.
The process was not only steeped in material research to produce the best possible ratio of timber waste to foaming agent, but also involved the production of a catalogue of foamed spaces that reveals many potential possibilities for future development of wood foam structures.
Materials: Sawdust, foaming agent
Program: Tree House