B.C. squatter's treehouse featured in major design mag
Published Thursday, April 26, 2012 10:16AM EDT
A 31-year-old B.C. man's dream home has gone viral, garnering worldwide attention after it was featured in a major design magazine.
There's just one problem. Joel Allen's dream home is a treehouse built secretly, and illegally, on Crown land near Whistler, B.C. and its future is now in jeopardy due to all the exposure.
At 26, Allen was working as a software developer in Whistler when the company he was working for fell on hard times in 2006, the money ran out, and he was forced to re-evaluate his career plans. He tried "retirement" for a couple of years, but found that didn't pay the bills, and eventually met a self-taught carpenter who inspired him to pick up a hammer and pursue the trade.
Not long after, the free-thinking adventurer came up with the concept for a treehouse, and with the help of some architect friends settled on building it in the shape of an egg, in a secret location on Crown land.
The concept began to take shape in 2008 while Allen was living out of his car and working as a carpenter in the Whistler area. He began obsessively using his free time, and his own money, to build the fantastic, storybook-like tree fort in the middle of the forest.
Now complete, the stunning egg-shaped wooden structure is perched on the edge of a precipitous mountain, deep in a hemlock forest, and resembles something a hobbit might call home.
"It seemed too simple, but it was true. The driving force behind the whole thing was a simple, yet inexorable desire to build something cool. There were no practical motives or profound meanings," Allen writes on his blog.
For roughly three years, it was a secret haven, a getaway that only Allen, his girlfriend and a select few knew about.
That may be about to change.
Since the project was picked up by Dwell, a major U.S.-based design magazine and featured in a special outdoor issue, Allen has suddenly been receiving a lot of attention from media around the world, and his project has gone viral.
He isn't sure he's entirely OK with that.
"I started to wonder about the fate of the HemLoft. Would people find it? What would happen if they found it? I had two options: I could rent a pit bull and a shotgun and neurotically circle the premises for the next 10 years of my life, OR... I could just not care, and welcome whatever curious prospectors wander in my direction," he writes on his blog.
In the end, Allen went with plan B. He decided not to live at the HemLoft but only visit, and trust that other visitors would respect and care for it as he did.
He told CTV's Canada AM "I wanted it to be something that everybody could experience in the way that I had enjoyed it."
The HemLoft is becoming somewhat of a hiker's refuge, he said, with a guest book that has now been signed by about a dozen adventurers who managed to put together a few clues in Allen's blog and successfully locate the treehouse.
Allen has asked readers of his blog to suggest ideas for the future of the project and hopes to come up with a way of exposing it to more people, while also making it legal.
With over $6,500 invested in the materials that went into it, and countless hours of sweat equity, Allen isn't keen on abandoning the project, and he hopes he isn't forced to dismantle it.
But he's keeping an open mind about the future.
"I think it's interesting to see what happens when something of value is all of a sudden on land and it's not owned by anyone -- I certainly don't believe that I own it. But at the same time, as the creator of it I would like to be able to share it with people," he told Canada AM from Calgary.
He added: "It's an unusual situation that hasn't been seen often before and I'm just curious to see what actually does happen."
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