In a recent summer, something very strange could be seen down in the woods at the “Dreilander Punkt” outside Aachen at the meeting point of Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Weird shapes and constructions (featuring the most outrageous colour schemes imaginable), graffiti art and a host of other abstract eccentricities, could be seen looming out of the forest.
The “Baumhaus” or Tree House Project was created as a “living art” initiative involving participants from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Over 270 people from the three countries worked together in the woods under the guidance of professional artists and architects to create a unique and perplexing piece of art.
The organisers picked a theme, the “bare necessities of life”, which was considered to be relevent to all project participants regardless of race, colour or creed. Each tree house reflected a different topic within the main themes, these being:
• “The body”, representing physical needs)
• “The safe haven”, or security
• “The Gathering”, for social needs
• “The Anthem”, representing appreciation and recognition
• “Growth”, for development
• “The Discovery”, representing new requirements
The six resulting treehouses combined the disciplines of art, theater and design. Volunteers helped to work on the project at all stages, from initial conception, right through to the construction phases. In addition to building sculptures, they painted, photographed, filmed and produced creative writing and poetry around the various themes.
Before the project started, the artists and architects established a basic framework for each treehouse . Each participant was then encouraged to contribute material according to their own strengths. The Teams of international volunteers then worked together creatively to construct each different treehouse. Participants were diverse and included school children, students, corporate groups, elderly people and special needs groups.
Those involved also contributed to the eclectic range of “recycled” materials that were collected and used for the Project; these included household junk, textiles, bikes, toys, bird cages and polystyrene. To this rough and ready assortment of goods, were later also added; paintings, sculptures and artwork by participants which reflected the different themes of the treehouses.
We found the “Baumhaus” exhibition a fascinating place to visit with all sorts of hidden nooks and crannies necessitating further exploration. The treehouses were open to the public though it was very much on the basis of “at your own risk”. Although most of the constructions appeared solid (a few definitely weren’t !), there were more than enough potential hazards (e.g. rusty projecting nails and weak floorboards) to keep UK health and safety officials scurrying about for months … however our kids loved it and didn’t mind at all !