Home Design in New Guinea Yields Inspiring Ideas 

Survival tells us to build shelter, but human nature tells us to make it interesting. The people of New Guinea have been making beautiful homes high in the trees for many years. The tree houses, explored by photographer  George Steinmetz are set in open spaces in the forests of Indonesian New Guinea lowlands.

Though the anthropology is fascinating what we’re interested in is the beautiful architecture and design of their homes.

George Steinmetz

George Steinmetz

The tree houses are made with intricately woven branches. They’re practical, and also quite stylish. The patterns in the branches are almost Mondrian-esque and make for magically filtered light inside. We wonder how we can apply the idea to our own home?

George Steinmetz

George Steinmetz

We found an example in prize-winning architect Li Xiaodong’s use of local fruit tree branches to cover the roof and exterior walls of China’s Liyuan library:

Credit Sim Chi Yin for The New York Times

Sim Chi Yin for The New York Times

The spindly sticks are arranged in vertical rows, and their uneven shapes allow natural light to filter into the library’s reading room, while keeping the building cool in the summer and cozy in the winter. They also act as a kind of camouflage, making the library’s rectangular edges barely noticeable in the landscape as visitors approach the village on a narrow, twisting road.

Credit Sim Chi Yin for The New York Times

Sim Chi Yin for The New York Times

If we can’t quite manage a New Guinea style tall tree house, perhaps we can achieve their lovely interior effects.

—Mira Keras

You can read more about Steinmetz’s first hand account of his experience with a people with little to no modern contact here. (He is the photographer who found the porch and meadow hiding on a rooftop in New York City.)

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