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the Hemloft

Secret treehouse

If you go down to the woods today you're in for a big surprise, writes JACQUELINE FORSTER.

Guerrilla gardening is not a new idea but what about guerrilla building?

Joel Allen took the concept to the next level, literally, when he built a secret treehouse on Whistler Mountain in Canada. The organic, alien-like structure, dubbed the HemLoft, is suspended in the canopy of a stand of hemlock trees on a precipitous slope in the forest. And though the secret build was fraught with danger – getting materials on site became an extreme sport and the threat of discovery and bear encounter proved challenging – the end product is an awe inspiring feat of engineering and craftsmanship.

Joel says the project was not initially motivated by ecological activism, civil rights or financial gain but simply the desire for self expression, the need to build something “cool”. Nevertheless, the HemLoft has become a symbol for free living, prompting off-gridders, would-be tree dwellers, envious eco-architects, sport sleepers and neo-hippies to propose that the dwelling receive nothing less than national landmark status.  Joel, meanwhile, is content in the knowledge that he built the HemLoft with his own hands. His only problem now is what to do with it?