Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and the Museum of Architecture (MoA), have launched a competition for three outstanding designs to build three treehouses in RBG Kew’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is part of a larger Treehouses at Kew’ Exhibition.

Kew’s main exhibit, ‘Treehouses At Kew’, will run for a year and offer one of the best visitor experiences in London’s cultural calendar.

This remarkable project will feature seven treehouses, a gallery and accompanying visitor program.

  • The Treehouses Competition will select three treehouses.
  • Three treehouses are direct orders from Kew’s International Scientific Priority Countries.
  • One will be codesigned with young people.
© Jeff Eden

This exhibition will highlight the importance of good design and how architects can help address some of today’s most pressing issues, such as sustainable materials use, climate change and places that balance people and planet.

Kew’s 14,000 trees form the backbone of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in West London. But, perhaps more importantly, they are the ‘lungs of the entire planet. Our mental well-being is greatly enhanced by trees. They also provide us with the commodities that support life: clean air, food and fuel, as well as medicines.

Climate change is one of the most important environmental and social problems facing humanity today. The exhibition is expected to attract 900,000. Each treehouse should inspire visitors with fun and interactive ways for them to learn about climate change, biodiversity, sustainable design, and other important issues.

© Jeff Eden

The Competition

This competition offers an opportunity to showcase your architectural and creative skills and create innovative, accessible and accessible designs in and around Kew’s living collection. The competition invites architects to design a treehouse that will house one of the three trees on Kew’s 320-acre property. Each treehouse should be able to respond to the tree’s particular theme. These themes are:

  1. Norway Maple celebrates play
  2. A Pine is a symbol of nature’s architecture, biomimicry and beauty.
  3. A Silver Lime is a showcase for innovative design and sustainable materials –
© Luke Hayes

Each treehouse is designed and constructed using sustainable, renewable materials. It should highlight and explore key aspects about trees and their importance for our world and bring visitors closer to Kew’s live collection.

The jury will be looking for designs that are visually striking, bold, innovative in their use of materials, and have a long-term life so that they can be reused elsewhere.

A number of partners are expected to support the delivery of Treehouses in Kew, including Arup, Finsa UK Limited and Xilonor.

© Jeff Eden

Richard Deverell (Director of RBG, Kew) said that he was delighted to announce the competition for talented architects to join us in our exciting summer program 2023. This unique project is for us because it celebrates our most valuable asset, the Kew Gardens’ beautiful tree collection, and also gives us an opportunity to showcase our global science research through an architectural exhibit. It is our hope that it will encourage people to see trees in a different way and help to preserve our planet’s precious biodiversity. It is exciting to see the designs come to life and to watch them all come to fruition.

Melissa Woolford, the founder of Museum of Architecture, said that architects draw inspiration from nature in order to create aesthetic designs, find design solutions, or come up with sustainable results. The Treehouses at Kew Design Competition provides an opportunity to demonstrate how forward-thinking design and material use can make a positive difference on the planet. It will be exciting to see how the design teams react to this opportunity to design innovative approaches that encourage thousands to consider new ways of looking at natural and built environments.

© Ines Stuart-Davidson

Submissions

The Museum of Architecture and Kew will jointly run this competition. This competition is open to UK-based as well as international architects practices. Submissions from collaborations are also welcome. The Museum of Architecture website has more information on the submission process.

The winners will need to work with Kew Gardens or Museum of Architecture in order to build their treehouse and be included in the various components of the project, including the gallery exhibition, programming and press and any commercial activities.