Owner: Girls Scouts North Carolina Coastal Pines
Engineer: Neville Engineering, Chapel Hill, NC
Contractor: CT Wilson, Durham, NC
Text description provided by the architects. At a lakeside camp, where tented and cabin campsites are proven attractions, the Girl Scouts set out to add a different sort of shelter. They wanted treehouses, something to evoke the sense of adventure, fantasy, delight found in the lofty constructs of backyards and forest getaways. The new 36-person site at Camp Graham consists of a series of pole structures along the wood’s edge, linked by an elevated path that winds among the trunks of the native trees. The challenge in treehouse making is to build without doing harm to the trees, and to extend access to all campers.
The Camp Graham structures are supported on tall wood poles that lightly touch the ground. They lean toward one another amid the surrounding, irregular tree trunks, becoming part of the forest. These frames are draped in canopies that combine both solid and translucent materials, which playfully catch or transmit the dappled sunlight that makes its way through the natural tree canopy. Each of the all-weather shelters accommodates six campers in bunks and cots, and each one includes a daylit central core, a place for playful mingling. The stick-framed forms soar overhead, reaching up to the branches of the trees that surround. The edges of end panels and floor boards stop short, allowing screened slots to naturally ventilate the space.
The connecting path begins at grade, rises gently and meanders a near-level course through the trees. Galvanized wire farm fencing minimizes the feeling of enclosure and promotes a sense of height, of being above the ground, in the trees. The elevated walk connects all six sleeping shelters and leads to the common troop house, located where the falling terrain allows a lower level for showers and storage. Stairs and a chair lift provide direct access between the troop level and the forest floor, which also provides location for the central firepit that is a feature of all the encampments at the lake.
Product Description. The lean-to frame is built with the same simple utility poles used most commonly as infrastructure. These poles fit comfortably among the trees with which they stand. As a product, the poles were economical and readily available up to the 45’ length required. To join the poles to the foundation, workmen on site saw kerfs for the steel plates which pin the structure together.