Yellow Treehouse Restaurant / Pacific Environments

Architects: Pacific Environments / Peter Eising & Lucy Gauntlett
Location: Auckland,
Project Managers: The Building Intelligence Group – Gareth Skirrow, Blair Wolfgram, Joe Holden
Engineers: Holmes Consulting – Chris MacKenzie & John Worth, Martin Feeney – Holmes Fire
Building Contractors: NZ Strong – Shane Brealey, Paddy Molloy, Megan Roberts; Citywide Construction Ltd – Jim Bellamy
Timber Fins: McIntosh Timber Laminates – Owen Griffiths, Sandy Sandiford
Lighting: ECC Lighting & Furniture – Renee Kelly
Project year: 2008-2009
Photographs: Lucy Gauntlett

It’s not often that a commission to design a treehouse is offered, so when Colenso BBDO – on behalf of Yellow Pages briefed Architects for a ‘reality’ TV advert for an off-the-wall functioning restaurant, jumped at the opportunity. Working alongside Tracey Collins and her team , the idea was to source all products and services through Yellow Pages listings (the book, online and mobile). It has paid us to be in Yellow – that’s how we were chosen and we are getting a great profile as a result.

concept sketch 01

PEL assisted project managers The Building Intelligence Group, Colenso BBDO and Yellow in the selection of the enormous Redwood tree on which the treehouse is to be built which is over 40m high and 1.7m diameter at the base, on a site north of Auckland.

The concept proved challenging and encompassed a range of consultants to get both Resource Consent, Building Consent and construction underway in a very limited time. We’ve never been involved in a project quite like this before!

Architectural Concept

The concept is driven by the ‘enchanted’ site which is raised above an open meadow and meandering stream on the edge of the woods.

The tree-house concept is reminiscent of childhood dreams and playtime, fairy stories of enchantment and imagination . It’s inspired through many forms found in nature -the chrysalis/cocoon protecting the emerging butterfly/moth, perhaps an onion/garlic clove form hung out to dry. It is also seen as a lantern, a beacon at night that simply glows yet during the day it might be a semi camouflaged growth, or a tree fort that provides an outlook and that offers refuge.The plan form also has loose similarities to a sea shell with the open ends spiralling to the centre .

It’s the treehouse we all dreamed of as children but could only do as an adult fantasy.

Access is via a 60m tree-top ‘accessible’ walkway -an adventure in itself.

The selected site and tree had to meet a myriad of functional requirements -18 seated people and waiting staff in relative comfort complete with a bar; gaining correct camera angles with associated light qualities for filming the adverts, web cam and stills, have unobstructed views into the valley and entrance to the site and structural soundness . The final selected tree is one of the larger trees on the site and sits above a steep part of the site which accentuates the tree’s height. Kitchen/catering facilities and toilets are at ground level.

concept sketch 02


The Architectural component embodies a simple oval form wrapped ‘organically’ around the trunk and structurally tied at top and bottom, with a circular plan that is split apart on the axis with the rear floor portion raised. This allows the approach from the rear via a playful tree-top walkway experience, slipping inside the exposed face of the pod and being enchanted by the juxtaposition of being in an enclosed space that is also quite ‘open’ and permeable to the treetop views. There is also a ‘Juliet’ deck opposite the entrance that looks down the valley.

The scale and form of the tree-house creates a memorable statement without dominating it’s setting. While it’s natural ‘organic’ form sits comfortably, the rhythm of the various materials retains it’s strong architectural statement. The verticality of the fins mimics the verticality of the redwoods and enable the building to naturally ‘blend’ into it’s setting, as though it were a natural growth.


construction process

It sits almost 10m wide and over 12m high, with the split-level floor sitting 10m off the ground. Timber trusses form the main structure. The curved fins are glue-laminated pine, plantation poplar has been used for the slats and redwood milled from the site used in the walkway balustrading. Openings are formed for windows by leaving spaces between the slats/fins that keeps the overall form yet affords a variety of openness for the views and light and closes down toward the rear. To loosen the regularity of the elements, steel is wrapped arbitrarily around the pod. Tying this up at the top and base has a sense of greater connection with the tree.

construction process

construction process

It is designed to be weather resistant using acrylic sheeting fixed to the roof under the fins with vertical roll-down café-style blinds within. Lighting is an important architectural component enhancing and changing the mood, with discreet lighting within the walkway and up-lighting within the tree house.

A team of consultants working alongside the architects includes fire and structural engineers (Holmes Consulting Group), town planners and aborists to meet functional and Building Code requirements as well as NZ Strong our builders.

Cite: "Yellow Treehouse Restaurant / Pacific Environments" 18 Mar 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 21 Sep 2014. <>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down -5

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I am astounded every day by what creative minds people have. This is so amazing, what an idea to have a restaurant build around a tree like that and using wood to create it. It looks so romantic, in some way it can be used to create environmental conscious.

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I would say, in sketches it looks so brilliant idea, but realization is somewhat, unfinished… Anyway, I like it! I would like such a resaurant at our forest… :)

  4. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Great ! Like a Star Wars scenery !
    Too bad the furniture wasn’t designed
    alongside too. The link with nature gets
    lost when you see these banal tables and
    chairs in it. Why is the interior so flat?
    There should have been levels in it, and
    a ladder to reach the top. It’s like they
    got scared along the way.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    Let’s curb the hostility and make a valid point, truth boy. The TRUTH, in fact, might just be that these tree-houses popping up all over the internet are more damaging to the micro environment of the tree than anything. They block vital highways for wildlife to the canopy, such as ants, bugs, birds, and rodents. Humans should no encroach on dense ecosystems if they don’t have to.
    Do we really need an outdoor tree-house in the middle of the woods with a restaurant in it?

  6. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Agree with Troy. Let’s hope it doesn’t rain for the restaurant’s sake not for the tree’s haha NOT. Doesn’t seem like the food is being cooked literally at the restaurant. I’d love to be a waiter there and walk those long walks just to serve a dish.

  7. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Its a poetic design and doesn’t seem to be damaging the surrounding ecosystem. In fact I’m sure its better than 99.9 percent of the buildings we put up these days. It also could spark visitor’s imaginations and consciousness of the environment around them. I’m all for it.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I could hear those trees crying for help..
    sigh, like putting ballerina skirt on chihuahua

    pretty…yet too much.

  9. Thumb up Thumb down +1


    At least the area wasn’t cleared to make way for the structure. While we’re focusing on micro-ecosystems, why not focus on the ones which the source material was taken from?

    I’m a fan of treehouses, but start to finish this thing just looks like an onion.

  10. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Looks beautiful, but what about those steel collars, they’ll girdle the growth of the trunk. This can only be a temporary building or the tree will die!

  11. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    The project looks really nice. I agree with the tree comments….and it´s evident that you are going to have a long way to the bathroom…

  12. Thumb up Thumb down -2

    I was absolutely sickened by the description of the attachment of the metal girdle ( two infact) to the tree. Two 150mm dia pins were also drilled through the tree to fixed the platforms in place. The Architect oblivious to his words said that the tree tightened around the drill bits as they drilled deeper into the heart of the trunk. The drills were extracted a number of times to weld the bits that broke inside. Short of doing this to one of your own children, and putting on display. Its is like the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. No I will not be eating there thank you.

  13. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Very interesting project. But if there are no trees? But very much it would be desirable to construct restaurant in “air”. It is possible to use concrete columns and to sheathe their wooden designs.
    But as a whole very interesting decision, and main-non-standard.
    Respect to the architect.

  14. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Creative romantic invasion. The inhabitants should be particularly aware of the other wood invaders (insects and mushrooms)

Share your thoughts