Opening in West Virginia in 2021, Peter Pichler Architecture’s radical Tree Houses will set the trend for high-spec, eco-sensitive forest bathing retreats. Erica Jamieson reports

Tree Houses is the first project in the US for Milan-based studio Peter Pichler Architecture (PPA). The structures will form an addition to an existing luxury hotel, and are designed to set a new standard for environmentally-conscious architecture and “slow down” tourism in West Virginia.

Pitting itself against the common narrative of coal mining in the Appalachian Mountains, PPA hopes the project will help return focus to the region’s natural beauty, and “represents a new radical tourism concept about eco-sustainability and zero emissions”.

Each treehouse will span 35 sqm to 42 sqm. For the two-storey units, a reading and lounge area on the ground floor will be connected via internal stairway to a bathroom and bedroom above.Peter Pichler Architecture Tree HousesSharp roof pitches and geometric design have been inspired by the surrounding maple, poplar, and oak trees. Expansive windows will allow views across the forest but are oriented so visitors only overlook the rear of another tree house from their accommodation.

Tree Houses include individual rainwater collection tanks and geothermal heat pumps. External walls and roofing will be constructed from local timber.

Peter Pichler Architecture Tree HousesFor visitors, the project is intended to maximise the connection between individuals and nature. “We believe that the future of tourism is based on the relationship of the human being with nature,” PPA told DesignBoom, “Well integrated, sustainable architecture can amplify this relationship, nothing else is needed.”

The Dawson Lake location features a spring-fed 40-acre lake, meadows, streams, wetlands, and over 100-acres of protected habitats for native species.

New construction includes a conference and event centre, plus a food and agriculture hub. Planned programming ranges from health and wellness proposals to educational workshops, art installations, and live performances, often focusing on the environment and ecology.

PPA’s design is the latest to join a slew of new tree house-based hotels worldwide, including examples in Austria and South Africa.

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