Changing Planet

A Tree Lounge To Connect with Nature, 40 Feet Up

The question is as obvious as the idea is strange. How do you put a boat in a tree?

Picture the tree house you built—or always wanted to build—as a kid. Then remove the walls and cover the floor with cushions and backrests and you have yourself the adult version. No longer a tree house, but an open air lounge that sets up prime viewing of sunsets and eye-level interactions with birds. Architect Nils Hammerbeck built it.

Nicknamed "das boot," the structure was designed to resemble a boat. Photo by Nils Hammerbeck

In a quiet and verdant Santa Barbara neighborhood, architect Hammerbeck showed me his stunning creation—a structure shaped like a boat that literally, and frighteningly, rocks and sways the way it would in the ocean. I wanted to understand Hammerbeck’s vision for putting a boat in a tree, and feel the trust of allowing thin branches (extremely thin ones, in some places) to support the weight of an elevated family. Climbing between ladders and thin bridges made of living wood, we mounted the tree’s summit, high enough to even see the Pacific Ocean in the distance.

“It gets you back to enjoying a unique experience with nature,” Hammerbeck told me, sitting in the California oak that was supporting both of us. No one lives in the tree lounge, nicknamed “Das Boot,” meaning “the boat” in German, as it has no roof. But as a place to get some fresh air and escape, I felt like lingering in the tree to spend the night among owls.

Architecture is about how you feel when you walk into a space, Hammerbeck says.

Building the lounge wasn’t cheap, but Hammerbeck has a vision for assembling lower-cost kits to build more of them for homeowners who see the value of lounging high up. All you’d need are the materials and a stable tree that could support a ton or two. And for at least a few days, an architect willing to swing from branches.

  • Pradeep

    This is amazing…Mr. Hammerbock

  • Pradeep

    This is amazing…Mr. Hammerbock

  • Alexandra

    The tree lounge is an awesome idea! Not only does it feel comfy, but the nature the surrounds it makes the experience feel simply amazing!

  • Alexandra

    The tree lounge is an awesome idea! Not only does it feel comfy, but the nature the surrounds it makes the experience feel simply amazing!

  • Pamela

    This is awesome Mr. Hammerbeck! The idea is great! You get to appreciate nature at its best. Looks so comfortable too! Good job!

  • Pamela

    This is awesome Mr. Hammerbeck! The idea is great! You get to appreciate nature at its best. Looks so comfortable too! Good job!

  • desi Traveler

    A very interesting concept… more like a watch tower I would say but on a living tree!

  • desi Traveler

    A very interesting concept… more like a watch tower I would say but on a living tree!

  • Gaby Hugli

    Mr. Hammerbeck……what an absolute dream your “Boot”! Cannot wait until you develop the cheaper version. Would also not mind if you hang in my tree for a while! Best of luck.

  • Gaby Hugli

    Mr. Hammerbeck……what an absolute dream your “Boot”! Cannot wait until you develop the cheaper version. Would also not mind if you hang in my tree for a while! Best of luck.

  • Amy

    Mr. Hammerbeck another ingenious design & creation!! Absolutely love it and we need more of your amazing talent all over the world–esp here in Santa Barbara!

  • Amy

    Mr. Hammerbeck another ingenious design & creation!! Absolutely love it and we need more of your amazing talent all over the world–esp here in Santa Barbara!

  • Evan Campbell

    Wow Excellent work my friend! I hope to see it from up top one of these days…

  • Evan Campbell

    Wow Excellent work my friend! I hope to see it from up top one of these days…

  • acne

    Of course, what an incredible weblog and illuminating posts, I will bookmark your site.Best Regards!

  • acne

    Of course, what an incredible weblog and illuminating posts, I will bookmark your site.Best Regards!

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (dbraun@ngs.org)

Social Media