When Canadian Joel Allen’s career as a software developer came to a sudden halt in 2006 he decided to retire. Without sufficient funding that idea fell flat and so, at 26 years of age, he decided to change direction.
But… where to? A timely meeting with an old man inspired Joel and gave him a new and exciting vision for the future. With no practical experience he became a carpenter. His first project was a shed for his parents – built solely for the experience gained. His second project was The Hemloft, an egg-shaped treehouse clinging to a tree on a steep slope in Whistler, British Columbia. He built it on Crown (public) land, in his spare time, and with as many free materials as he could lay his hands on. At first he worked alone, but for the last few months of the project he and his new love toiled on it together.
The result was a beautiful building in an amazing setting with wonderful views.
When asked – much later, when the project was complete – “Why?” Joel eventually responded, “I guess… I just wanted to build something cool”.
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. The fact that it was hiding below some of the richest properties in Western Canada wasn’t a political statement, it just happened to be where I found the perfect tree. And building with free materials wasn’t out of some principled ideal, it was just the only avenue I could afford. In the end, I was mysteriously compelled to build something cool, something beautiful… and apparently, I was willing to go to maniacal lengths to make it happen.
Joel’s website chronicles the whole story and includes great photos of the loft’s construction and of it complete. The video provides a good introduction to The Hemloft.