TREEHOUSES – JUST A GREEN DREAM?

“In the Norse tradition ‘crossing the Black Forest’
came to signify penetrating the barriers between
one world and another.”              (Francis Gentry)

In the South-Western part of Germany you will find a wide mountainous area even called today Black Forest (Schwarzwald), and the name originates most probably from the Old Norse noun Myrkviðr (meaning mirky wood or black forest) as part of the Germanic-Scandinavian mythology Edda. In this context the woodlands were a holy place for magic rituals around the all-connecting world tree Yggdrasil. The German tales collected and published by Gebrüder Grimm in the 19th century tell us a lot of stories regarding these sometimes quite bizarre forest sites, while the author J. R. R. Tolkien adopted this dense and green place much more recently as the gloomy Mirkwood,  a Northern jungle full of primeval mysteries.

milne-bay-papua-new-guinea_1884Constructing a treehouse at Papua-New Guinea
Illustration by Otto Finsch, 1884

Our much older ancestors, the monkeys, once did a new thing. Hitherto there had been the earth-bound animals with legs and the air-borne animals with wings. The monkeys left the ground without riding the air and made the trees their habitation, and this was incorporated in our genetic codes while human children do like normally very much climbing or housing on trees as a self-evident game. So the green trees and the wide forests mean certainly our original (mostly previous) homeland here on Earth. Therefore it is also not astonishing that Buddha has only attained enlightenment under a tree, the sacred fig named Bodhi. Such natural mythological places and symbols were destroyed everywhere in Europe as part of a violent missioning Christian crusade starting in the 6th century which completely ignored the fact that plants and trees are living much longer and obviously in greater diversity than our species on this planet and deserve our full respect.

Destruction of the Saxonian Irminsul by Charlemagne 772,
illustration by Heinrich Leutemann 1882

Nowadays – as part of a recollection to nature as a value in itself which is not at all a romantic question – modern architecture discovers again trees as an integral part of constructing houses worldwide. This development gets most visible at the two Bosco Verticale towers at Milan where real trees and bushes have been set on its balconies with the aim to create one hectare of forest as part of a modern appartment building in the very centre of a densely populated big town. But here the basic materials of construction remain concrete and glass, so the trees and bushes resemble more or less just a green attachment, a planted facade. So I was really enthusiastic when I stumbled over the information some time ago that urban treehouses are existing not far away in my town, because in the concept of such buildings trees are standing in the centre of design and creation.

dsc_0281Sideview of ‘Urban Treehouse’ at Berlin / Germany

Cabanes La Grande Noë - MoulicentInviting terrace at ‘La Grande Noe’ / France  © Cabanes de la Grande Noe

A treehouse in a big city like Berlin, that sounds quite strange first of all. But for the architects & builders of the Urban Treehouse-project this is the most relevant part of their conceptual design in order to connect nature and a modern kind of urban living on a high level. So they have built two of these small treehouses on a premise directly situated at Berlin’s great forest Grunewald and not far away from the nice lake Krumme Lanke at the district of Zehlendorf. If you intend to go somewhere in the city centre, the next subway station can be reached from there easily and in short-time. So both can be appreciated when living in these houses: the joys of nature and the diverse advantages of a European capital. Hence, this is a mere private project which can be only used by family members for a very delightful stay someday. 

dsc_0269Streetview of ‘Urban Treehouse’ at Berlin / Germany

grandenoe_birdnestsBird-nests at ‘La Grande Noe’  / France   © Cabanes de la Grande Noe

As a part of a more adventure focused tourism treehouse hotels in Europe are quite popular in Germany and France, few others can be also found in Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Great Britain and Turkey – in total at least 50 rural sites all around in Europe.  The accomodation prices are quite often comparable to a stay in a 5-star-hotel, as they definitely offer some kind of deluxe today, a place for dreaming like a bird. At Cabanes de la Grande Noe (being situated in the Normandy  countryside of France) six different houses can be rented for 2 or more people on a family run domain. All of them are built merely with wood around or in the trees, such reflecting the traditional way of constructing these kind of houses. So here you have the possibility to experience the rural and puristic treehouse feeling, but with breakfast served and brought to the treehouse each morning – what a luxury wilderness.

If you possibly intend to build a treehouse sometimes lateron just for yourself, the following book will be in any case helpful and animating:  Be in a Treehouse: Design / Construction / Inspiration by Pete Nelson also available in German Die wunderbare Welt der Baumhäuser: Design – Konstruktion – Inspiration, Pete Nelson.

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EXPRESSIONIST ADVENTURES

The Red City, a painting by Marianne von Werefkin from 1909, stands exemplary for Expressionism which emerged in Northern Europe in the early 20th century and quickly spread through all of the arts and as well also in architecture. So lets make a short walk through the vivid Falkenhagener Feld in Berlin.



The Falkenhagener Feld was originally an area used by allotments and agriculture and closes west of the old town of Spandau, the core of the district Spandau in Berlin. Between 1923 and 1927 the architect Richard Ermisch realized here the erection of a huge estate in Expressionist style along the Zeppelinstr. and Falkenseer Chaussee.

At the junction of both streets four eye-catching towers form the very centre of this interesting architecture. Till today these varied houses look really strikingly modern although almost one hundred years old.

 

THE GREENS OF HANNAH HÖCH

The annual Day of Open Monuments offered the unique opportunity to visit the house and rural premises of Hannah Höch (1889-1978), great artist, co-founder and also the only female promoter of Dadaism. Her former green refuge and home is located in Berlin-Heiligensee, a more village-like district in the North of the German capital. Here she worked and lived from 1939 till her decease in 1978.

Hannah Höch’s house and garden (street-view)

Hannah Höch, Mechanical Garden, 1920

In 1918 she proclaimed the photo montage as a new form of artistic expression and thus wrote art history. The gift of observing was essential for her in order to discover new pictures in existing ones. With the help of scissors and glue Hannah Höch strove for such new creations, which according to her own estimation were achieved when the alienation of found illustrations was so fundamental that one could no longer recognize where the pictures originally came from.

Hannah Höch working in her garden, late 1960s

Nature and landscape played a special role in the ouevre of Hannah Höch through her entire life. She liked to show the numerous facets of nature far from a naive idyll by using also combative and humorous angle of views, sometimes full of dark melancholy.

Hannah Höch, Bouquet, 1929

” A great deal of strength gave me my strong touch with nature. In the wild whirl (in which) our life took place in this time, I always had this one thing at hand.”  

 (Hannah Höch in a letter to Kurt Heinz Matthies, 1943)

Back yard of Hannah Höch’s home

Every day she spent many hours in her garden, raising flowers, vegetables and fruits. So the garden was also important for her surviving because she never got rich with her varied art. Not all of her works are known till today because they are spread somewhere while she was also forced sometimes to pay the butcher or things like that with small artworks and creations. 

Hannah Höch, Tempest, 1935

During the Third Reich she was defamed by the Nazis as a Culture-Bolshevist and was no longer allowed to work and exhibit. In the autumn of 1939 she bought a former flight attendant’s house in Berlin-Heiligensee far away from the busy city centre. The house offered an ideal hideout for the artist, and in this pastoral environment Höch could feel safe from spying and denunciation, because none of her neighbours suspected anything of her Dada past.

Hannah Höch, Der Unzufriedel, 1945

Due to this seclusion of her new domicile she succeeded in rescuing her own works as well as the objects of her artist friends which were declared by the Nazis as the leading representatives of socalled degenerate art. However, the decision to stay in Nazi-Germany resulted in a real difficult economical situation. To make a living  she had to sell flowers and fruits from her nice garden which she arranged after WW II to a thriving total work of art.

Hannah Höch, Garden, 1948

 

ARTBASE FESTIVAL 2019 – MURALS IN RURAL RUINS

Artbase is a festival of urban art moving in a vivid kaleidoscope between painting and party on deserted grounds. The first issue took place in 2011 at the former pulmonary hospital Grabowsee. During the last weekend of August 2019 it was realized again in the former and now abandoned lunatic asylum Domjüch close to Neustrelitz (80 kms north of Berlin). Nearly 150 international urban artists transformed these ruins into a wild, romantic and very alive place.

 

A smooth wind blows through the long abandoned houses‘ empty corridors, while a warm and friendly summer sun gleams through the ailing cracks. Inside the ruins, a conglomeration of fading colors and amazing street art works decorate the walls.

A place where nature has slowly recaptured the old walls. Deserted, long hallways, abandoned rooms with only faint memories.

 

But suddenly a soft hissing of a spray can sounds. Someone presses a button. Suddenly sounds are coming through the empty rooms. Loud voices echo through the old walls and the place awakens.

After WW II the buildings were used for military purposes by the Soviet Red Army which left the site in 1993, the start of a long and deep slumber which was interrupted abruptly now by all kinds of colors, visions and phantastic dreams painted on the crumbling walls of this remote place.

And last but not least on the premises you will find also the namegiver of the site, a beautiful forest lake called Domjüchsee.

Jo’s Monday walk : Alvor & the Estuary

 

NOTHING AT/AND ALL

The biggest enemy of patience is called nowadays action bias, meaning the craving for doing something always at any time. Why not just start doing nothing or even feel the nothing?

And in this mysterious mood everything comes to the vain blow, because the plastic world staged the cosmic blackout. But to untangle the world of the Maya can only succeed in pure nothingness, an unstructured space without end or still beginning – and yet no space.

Here the words simply fail and hence everything starts all of a sudden nowhere again. According to the unwritten riddles of cosmogony, the jump to the true non-place now succeeds.

ALLIANCE FOR MASTER BRUIN

A common Russian joke told to guests from other countries is that they can meet in Russia bears as well in big towns but with a balalaika around the shoulder and a bottle of vodka in the paw.

All is just fine for my teddy deep in the forest

This human perspective of the bear and nature has in fact nothing to do with the real bear who likes for instance to snack honey or all kinds of berries. In any case the bear still acts all around us as a virulent archetype in our today’s life and language, so in Germany – when telling a complete false story – this is described by the idiomatic phrase  “jemandem einen Bären aufbinden” meaning literally to fix a bear on somebody’s back.

‘Meister Petz und Reineke Fuchs’, 1752, by Allart van Everdingen
(Illustration in Johann Christoph Gottscheds’  animal epos ‘Reineke der Fuchs’)

During the Bronze Age people in Europe adored the bear for his power and strength, but besides believed in him also as a great healer because it was said that during the time of the annual winter dormancy the bears would simply disappear to the other unseen world of myths, spirits, gods and dreams. However, the common picture of the bear is a bit ambivalent because he was also regarded as a threat for farmed animals although being in reality a vegetarian most of the year. In the last 200 years the common view on the bear has changed a lot, because he hence became an important player in fables and epic works where he would represent either just a clumsy fellow or also quite often the real personalization of a friendly, good-natured, naive companion.

19th century illustration by Gustave Doré

In Northern America the tale of “The woman who married a bear” is widely well known and most probably existing in multiple versions with the diverse tribes and first nations. And in this context and culture bears are more treated like brothers and sisters shared in a common nature. In order to preserve this old but jeopardized relationship they have found GOAL, the tribal coalition to protect the grizzly and their ancestors’ legacy. GOAL is representing 39 tribal nations in total, and you will find more detailed information under the following link:

http://www.goaltribal.org/