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Kew and the Museum of Architecture launch treehouse design competition

Dezeen promotion: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Museum of Architecture have launched a competition to find exceptional designs for three new treehouses across Kew UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The competition is part of the Treehouses at Kew Exhibition, which runs from April to October 2023, and aims to "provide one of the most unmissable visitor experiences in the 2023 London cultural calendar".

UK-based and international architects are invited to design a treehouse for one of three trees across Kew's 320-acre site. Each treehouse will have a theme, and architects can choose to design the treehouse of their choice.

A photograph of Kew Garden's conservatory
The winning designs will examine how trees are essential to human wellbeing

The first treehouse is intended for a Norway maple tree and will highlight play. The second will be for a pine tree and explore biomimicry, while the third treehouse, designed for a silver lime, will showcase sustainable materials.

The winning treehouses will be constructed at Kew Gardens, in addition to three separately commissioned treehouses and another that will be built in collaboration with young people. Seven treehouses will be built in total.

"The other four will be direct commissions," said the Museum of Architecture. "Three treehouses will be direct commissions by architects from Kew's designated International Scientific Priority countries. One will be created as a co-designed project in collaboration with young people."

A photograph of The Hive at Kew Gardens
The winning treehouses will be directly commissioned by Kew Gardens

The winning designs from the competition will be made from sustainable materials, and the designers will also need to ensure that their treehouse can be sustainability reassembled elsewhere.

"An anticipated 900,000 visitors will attend the exhibition during its run, and each treehouse must inspire visitors in fun and interactive ways to learn more about protecting the climate, biodiversity and sustainable design," said the competition's organisers.

The treehouses will also showcase how trees across the world are important to human wellbeing and how they provide us with a range of essential commodities, including food, clean air, medicines, fuels and timber.

A photograph of children running around one of Kew Garden's treehouses
The winning treehouses will be designed from sustainable materials

"This is a unique venture for us in that it combines a celebration of our most prized asset, our beautiful collection of trees at Kew Gardens, with an opportunity to highlight our global science work through an architectural exhibition," said Richard Deverell, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

"We hope it will inspire our visitors to look at trees differently and ultimately to protect our planet and its precious biodiversity by championing high-quality, nature-based solutions to the challenges we face."

A photograph of light rays through the green trees at Kew Gardens
The treehouses will be built for a Norway maple tree, a pine tree and a silver lime

The winning architects will also be included in the 'Treehouses at Kew' wider visitor programme, which intends to communicate how architects can address the climate crisis, including designing spaces that balance the needs of humans and the natural world.

"Architects draw from nature to inform their designs aesthetically, to find design solutions, and come up with sustainable outcomes," said Melissa Woolford, founder of the Museum of Architecture.

"The Treehouses at Kew Design Competition is an important opportunity to show how forward-thinking designs and material use can have a positive impact on our planet," she added.

"I am excited to see how design teams respond to this opportunity to create innovative design approaches that inspire thousands of people to think differently about the natural and built environments."

A photograph of Kew's trees in autumn
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a global conservation centre of plant and fungal science

First-stage treehouse designs should be emailed to [email protected] by 7 February 2022.

The Museum of Architecture (MoA) is a London-based charity focused on increasing public engagement with architecture to encourage learning and collaboration.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a botanic garden and global conservation centre of plant and fungal science located in Southwest London.

To learn more about the competition, visit the Museum of Architecture's website.

Partnership content

This article was written by Dezeen for the Museum of Architecture and Kew Gardens as part of a partnership. Find out more about Dezeen partnership content here.