Architect and designer Antony Gibbon is probably best known for his tree houses. And it isn’t hard to see why. These designs (and the resulting structures) are perfectly contemporary. In keeping with our time, they are at once nostalgic and forward-thinking, dystopian and utopian, on the fault line of returning to nature and manufacturing it. They are also just strikingly beautiful.
Gibbon only recently added architecture to his job description. We have an everyday coincidence to thank for this development and the revelatory designs that followed. Gibbon was living in Brighton, he tells Fold, when the owner of a small treehouse company asked him to design a few commonplace tree houses. Gibbon got to work but the prompt couldn’t quite contain his creative drive, and soon his mind drifted, and he started designing more unusual tree houses on the side in a journal. These sketches became Roost, one of his most popular designs.
The idea behind Roost and Embryo (above) was to mimic the curvaceous s found in nature, and to create pod-like houses that would become part of the tree itself, camouflaged in the forest. Harnessed to the tree using a bracing technique that wouldn’t interfere with its growth, the house would be accessed by a spiral staircase winding around the trunk. Gibbon became increasingly interested in biomimicry, the imitation of nature for the purpose of solving human problems, and his designs became more practical. Accordingly, he no longer put his houses in actual trees, but instead started designing tree-like structures from the trunk upwards.
Gibbon’s creative process, he tells Fold magazine, starts with a jumble of crude pencil sketches in his journal, evolving to become more specific drawings, which he designs in Vector, eventually turning them into stunning computer renderings that he shares online. The deep resonance of these structures has earned Gibbon considerable interest from developers and architects. This led, among other things, to the construction of Inhabit NY in Woodstock NY, a house peering out of the forest, overlooking a lake, with a view of the Catskills mountains.
He has since sold two more of his designs, now being constructed. And these possibilities have opened up his practice beyond tree houses, further expanding on his notion of biomimicry. The Verge is the idea of a house on the coast taken to its logical extreme, as it is literally lodged into the contours of the cliff. His interest in tepees — the most natural, ecological buildings — first inspired The Nook and then Orca, two designs that showcase how quickly Gibbon’s vision evolves.
Gibbon’s great sense for combining modern design with natural elements can be seen in his more orthodox building designs as well as the beautiful furniture he creates. Throughout his portfolio, he blends the aesthetic with the ecological into works that seem as complete as a tree.