Save the pod! The B.C. Hemloft is in trouble!



This little egg of a tree house was built by a guy named Joel Allen, just for fun.

He designed The Hemloft with two of his architect friends and constructed it himself (with his girlfriend) using mostly recycled and free materials.

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He didn’t have a whole lot of carpentry experience, money or means, so he built this little getaway in forest land that he did not own outside of Whistler, British Columbia. Joel was living out of his car at the time and squatting at all manner of creative places around the area (tractor buckets, scaffolding, water towers).

Joel was befriended during this time by a hippy dude named Old Man John. Joel was inspired by Old Man John’s self-taught carpentry skills and so Joel endeavored to build a secret tree house with his own two hands.

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Now if this all sounds a little crazy to you, then you just haven’t lived in the Pacific Northwest.

It’s not uncommon for people to live in trees… for university students to camp out in tee-pees on the beach… or to live long-term in one’s car. I lived in Vancouver for four years and was hugely inspired by the creative weirdos who just went for it and lived the simple life. Although I resided first in a dorm, then in a loft of an old house, I was always drawn to the nomadic, paired-down life-style of the “tree people”… or beach people… or what have you.

In fact my dad, decades before, had ventured out to British Columbia and lived, um, freely off the land and as a street person. (Yes, you heard it here: House Crazy Sarah’s dad was a homeless hippy in the 1960’s!)

Not to glorify the *no taxes, no showers* lifestyle, but you have to admit there is something completely liberating about it.

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Anyway, that lifestyle appealed to Joel Allen but he wanted something with a little more permanence. So he built The Hemloft. Completed in the summer of 2011, the Hemloft was named with a nod to the great western hemlock tree, common in the dense forests in the Pacific Northwest.

Kept a secret for the three years that it took Joel to build it, the Hemloft has recently become a bit of a phenomenon on the web. Joel decided to go public because his tree house was just so…cool. It was hard to keep a thing like that a secret.

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Just before he went public with it, Joel was asked by a family friend why he built the Hemloft.

She said “no, why did you really build it?” For the first time in my life, I was forced to face the truth about it. I said “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.

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The problem is, the land that Joel built the egg pod on is “Crown land”. For those of you who don’t live in Canada, Crown land is acreage that is owned by the federal government – like National Forest Land in the United States.

So now Joel is in a bit of a pickle. He may be forced by the authorities to take the Hemloft down. He has written extensively about his predicament on his website and he has a few options listed on which readers can vote.

My vote goes to: 

For more on The Hemloft see the links below:

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