Pitchandikulam’s latest building rises eight meters above the forest floor, carried by the trunk and embraced by the branches of an old tree.
My name is Anaïs Schendekehl, a Weltwärts volunteer in Pitchandikulam Forest since August 2016. For me living in a tree-house is a childhood dream, one of these dreams that you have for so long that you don´t even know any more when you started having it and so far away you somehow unconsciously assume it would always just remain like that: a dream.
Almost one year ago I had to answer the question “What do you definitely want to do in Auroville?” for my volunteering application and I remember feeling somehow ridiculous when I answered that I always wanted to built and live in a tree house. I had absolutely no idea how this could be done! However somehow I felt if it wasn’t gonna happen in Auroville, it would never happen!
Surprisingly from the moment this wish was written down things just kept falling into place – like unconsciously grabbing my climbing gear during last minute packing – a friend telling me about Auroville’s tree house community that has planned on constructing five hundred tree houses all around the world by 2026 – and finding an amazingly grown tree right next to Pitchandikulam’s newly renovated community kitchen that was literally asking for a treehouse.
What was challenging was the question of finance and ideas varied from crowdfunding over starting activities to paying it off by renting. In the end Joss’s attitude of “If you really do a project that comes from the heart the money will somehow come to you!” was the last push to get the ball rolling.
First of all the wood needed to be sourced from the forest get cut into planks and beams. Already the following week the construction could start and I was happy to leave the office and join the treehouse gang: Luke and the amazing team from the Treehouse Community, Auroville. First steps were to set up ropes to safely operate in the tree and lift up beams and trunks for the first platform and the staircase. I quickly realised that building a treehouse requires a really good team work and coordination between the “ground team” that prepares the materials and sends up whatever materials are needed for the “hanging team” to safely operate at the top. The efficient workflow these guys have is really impressive and shows their knowledge and experience. Getting the floor to be straight and fixing the wood safely without hurting the tree require a lot of know-how. Moreover, a good imagination and abstract thinking capacities are necessary to build around and integrate the natural forms.
It was amazing to see how the huge piles of planks and pillars were slowly disappearing as the first platform was step by step getting reachable via the staircase while simultaneously the second platform evolved from carrying belts to a first skeleton and then became the floor of the house. Every day we could reach higher into the tree and after an amazing three weeks of work I couldn’t believe finding myself standing on top of the roof structure already starting to cover it with the traditionally woven coconut palm leafs. I remember how I enjoyed the sun and the cooling breeze up there while joking with the guys in sheer amazement of what we had created.
Since the treehouse is finished it has turned into a highly requested accommodation. Most of the participants of the ecovillage design education course (EDE) spent a night there. Experiences varied from deep and restorative sleep with dreams of being Peter Pan in Wonderland to adventurous encounters with local wildlife.
Now that the course is finished it will be my accommodation until coming August. Finally, I get to spend a night in the house of my dreams.
Read more: a blogpost on the technical aspects of building the treehouse from the wonder architect craftsmen themselves, Luke and the Treehouse Community.