modus studio sculpts native pine ribs into evans tree house in arkansas

modus studio sculpts native pine ribs into evans tree house in arkansas

nestled in the garvan woodland gardens, modus studio created the evans tree house for the university of arkansas. the site is a 210-acre botanical garden near the town of hot springs in central arkansas, with the treehouse situated in a peninsula surrounded by the quachita river. the area, a children’s adventure garden, is surrounded by native trees such as pines and oaks, which match the building’s aesthetic. 


images © timothy hursley


the designers were inspired by dendrology, the scientific study of trees, for the building’s organic form and educational program. they wanted the elevated treehouse to camouflage itself into the landscape and appear to seamlessly blend with its surroundings. the multistory treehouse is boomerang-shaped in plan, elevated four to 7.6 meters off the ground by steel columns to preserve the natural world underneath. the treehouse’s elevation brings visitors closer to the tree canopies, recreating the magical feeling of being high up in the trees.




the treehouse aims to provide an interactive educational experience where children can explore nature closely. it is meant to present a rich visual and tactile environment for visitors to find a deeper connection to the surrounding nature, while accommodating the needs of the users. the treehouse’s sheer wooden skin creates a play on light and shadows, reflected in the interior of the space. this simulates the sunlight’s effect through a tree canopy, placing the visitors even closer to the natural world. small viewholes that cut through the skin enable an unobstructed view to the neighboring trees. 



the treehouse’s structural system resembles ribs connected to a central spine. 113 ribs in total contour the space, where 10 of the ribs are made of steel, and the rest are made of thermalized southern yellow pine native to arkansas. the treatment uses heat and steam to increase the pine’s durability and increase its weather resistance. all the ribs connect to a top central steel beam that runs through the entire building as well as a bottom spine. the bottom spine holds the floor plates and connects them to the six pairs of slender columns.



modus studio was involved in the project from its conception to the fabrication of the metal meshes at the building’s sides. the openings towards the building’s east and north provide a bigger viewing area into the forest, and are clad in a metal mesh recreating leaves and branches. the metal screen was water-jet cut at modus studio’s in-house fabrication workshop. through the firms design-to-fabrication approach, the designers felt connected to the project, merging their childhood experience in nature with the studio’s ‘think-make-do’ philosophy. the sculptural, dynamic result creates a magical space for children and adults alike to reconnect with nature. 








UPDATE: this project has been shortlisted in the ‘completed buildings – civic and community’ category at the 2019 world architecture festival.





project info:


architect: modus studio

architectural team: chris baribeau, josh siebert, suzana annable, scott penman, philip rusk, jody verser

fabrication team: jason wright, reice brummett, paul siebenthal, alex cogbill, kevin brown

civil engineer: ecological design group

structural engineer: engineering consultants, inc

exhibit designer: 3. fromme design

contractor: cdi contractors

owner: garvan woodland gardens, university of arkansas

photography: timothy hursley

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