Styx Valley

Protest Shelter

The Styx Valley Forest is a pristine wilderness in south western Tasmania. It is home to the tallest hardwood trees in the world averaging over 80 metres. It is a unique ecosystem unlike any other. Many of the trees are over 400 years old. In 1996 only around 13% of these trees remain. A large area of south western Tasmania's pristine wilderness is world heritage and is therefore protected. Unfortunately the Styx Valley falls just outside the South West National Park and it is now under attack from logging companies.

The logging companies clear fell such areas in Tasmania and burn any remnant vegetation once they have removed any timber considered of value. The high quality timbers that are then removed are reduced to nothing more than wood chips that are then exported mainly to Japan.

From this rape and pillage of Tasmania's previously untouched, pristine landscape, Tasmania receives only AUD$10 per ton of woodchips.

Reference :

GLOBAL RESCUE STATION, generation 1 [existing]
In an attempt to halt the clear felling of the Styx Valley a large group of activists formed human barricades to stop the entry of bulldozers and log trucks. The centre piece to the activists protest is the GLOBAL RESCUE STATION [GRS] perched within the canopy of a grand old Styx gum fondly named Gandalf. The GRS has been manned by numerous local and international activists since November 12, 2003. Made simply from 2 platforms suspended by rope from the branches of Gandalf, the GRS has been the centre piece of the tactics employed by the activists.
Tactics are:
- to have a visible protest presence within the forest.
- provide a structure that, once manned, authorities would be reluctant [if not powerless] to remove.
-Through its manned presence it not only protects Gandalf but furthermore it protects a large area because if any surrounding trees were felled they may damage the GRS or Gandalf thereby endangering those activists present.
Now, with winter looming, the platform is being removed.
The proposed GRS Generation 2 protest structure is a more permanent and more drastic level of direct environmental protection.

GLOBAL RESCUE STATION, generation 2 [proposed]
GRS Generation 2 is a conceptual investigation that extrapolates the tactics employed by GRS generation 1.
GRS gen2 is designed to:
- spread its load over three trees, rather than the canopy of a single tree, thereby protecting a number of trees per structure.
- provide a structure to protect activists from the potentially threatening winter

Press for the Styx Valley Shelter

XS Green: Big Ideas, Small Buildings

“Maynard’s contribution is a cleverly designed, self-contained unit that combines practicality with unexpected aesthetic and technical achievements”


“...replenishes hope in all tree-hugging hearts”

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official selection

Interview with The Financial Times (London)

You have a reputation for subversive and innovative projects – can you share your views on the future of treehouse design?

Is there anyone that does not have a soft spot for treehouses? Bart Simpson’s treehouse epitomises what we love about them. A place of play, adventure and creativity. Importantly Bart’s treehouse is also a place of retreat and solitude.

Is there a future for structures that are fixed to trees in our increasingly litigious society? I doubt it. Like the Styx Valley Protest Shelter perhaps these will remain illegal structures as they do not conform to building codes, nor would you be able to find an engineer to certify a structure fixed solely to a tree. But perhaps this illegal, subversive, challenging and therefore adventurous nature is what is most useful and alluring about treehouses.

In the future tree houses are likely to be spaces that occupy tree canopies, while their structure remains fixed to the ground, rather than to tree trunks. This would be a compromise, however it would be a small compromise considering how wonderful it is to be in tree canopies.

Though it is not a treehouse, our recent Moor House is designed so that the bedroom is surrounded by tree canopy. There is a huge, beautiful gum to the north and a lovely Japanese maple to the south. The bedroom is surrounded by foliage, with no sign of trunk. It’s a pretty amazing space.

Drawing from your work on the Styx Valley protest shelter, how important are trees in designing communities in the future. Might you develop this concept in future projects?

Treehouses force us to question so much that we take for granted in the spaces we occupy day-to-day. This is very useful. I plan to build numerous tree houses in the future when suitable projects come into the office. The pragmatic challenge will be how to get a delicate, almost invisible structure, down to the ground rather than connected to the trees themselves. The other big hurdle is how you get into the treehouse. In the Styx Valley Protest Shelter one belays via rope. This was a pragmatic choice, however it also avoids the difficulty of adding a large ladder or, worse, a dominant stair structure.

Can you tell me how the idea for the Styx Valley protest shelter first came about?

The Styx Valley protest Shelter came about from a discussion with Wilderness Society protesters who had set up a camp within a designated logging area in Tasmania’s south west. Together we decided that a robust structure was required that would also draw international attention to the plight of Tasmania’s forest. The threat to Tasmania’s forest is even more grave right now as we have a Prime Minister driven by predatory capitalism. He is looking to repeal parts of Tasmania’s World Heritage listing so that logging companies can harvest old growth forest for wood chips. One of many broken election promises from the most destructive Prime Minister Australia has had.

Are you seeing a growing market for treehouses as residential properties, or as spaces to which people want to retreat? Why do you think this is?

People like the idea of including a treehouse in their project. Often it is deleted from the brief when costs and the building code conspire to make it a low priority for home owners. We are finding ways to overcome these problems as we explore treehouse ideas more and more.