Elevated luxury: the Piil treehouse in Estonia

Piil Treehouse - Studio Arsenit, Estonia

The Piil treehouse, designed by studio Arsenit, is a stunning nine-meter-tall retreat nestled in the Estonian forest. The name “Piil” is derived from the Estonian word “piiluma,” which means “peeking” or “looking.” This pre-fabricated treehouse offers a compact yet luxurious living space of 19 square meters while providing expansive views of the surrounding Estonian wilderness. Elevated on a single leg and suspended over a terrace, Piil creates an open-air “living room” that offers shelter from rain and snow.

Arseni Timofejev, the founder of Arsenit, reflects on the project, stating that the client’s brief was for raised “glamping” accommodation that could serve as a retreat or micro-hotel. Inspired by the observation towers found in scenic locations across Estonia, Piil offers a unique opportunity to experience the sensation of staying overnight in one of these towers. The first prototype version of Piil elevates the accommodation 4.25 meters (13.95 ft) above the ground with a single-story “leg.” In future iterations, taller “legs” could raise the accommodation units even higher, potentially above the tree branches.

The treehouse’s entrance is discreetly tucked away behind a cladding layer that can be peeled back to reveal the impressive metal structure supporting the cantilevered design. Both the “leg” and the accommodation modules above act as large steel trusses, which were skilfully manufactured in-house by the client, Levstal Group, a renowned metal manufacturer. The “leg” is enveloped in hit-and-miss pine cladding and houses a staircase, essential services, and a sports equipment store. Meanwhile, the raised bedroom provides seclusion, a unique perspective, and the opportunity to rest among the branches of the surrounding trees.
Inside the Piil treehouse, Arsenit has created a spacious and beautifully designed interior using white-washed oak. The various levels within the dwelling allow horizontal surfaces to be utilized as tables, seats, or display spaces, while the vertical timber paneling adds to its tree-house-like ambiance. The living spaces are carefully designed to cater to remote work and comfortable rest, featuring a king-size bed, two working tables, a kitchenette, ample concealed storage, and a generous bathroom with a top-lit shower. One of the highlights of the retreat is the enormous window-skylight paired with a large netted hammock mezzanine, creating a sensation of being suspended mid-forest.

Externally, the Piil treehouse is finished with untreated, thermally modified pine by Thermory. This choice of material not only requires minimal maintenance but also gracefully weathers to a silver-grey tone, allowing the building to blend seamlessly with the surrounding pine tree forest. The rain-screen cladding with a square cross-section adds visual depth to the structure, filters light and air into the building, and gives it a monolithic appearance. Additionally, the cladding provides shade to the openable windows, encloses a ground-level storage space, and screens services and MVHR (mechanical ventilation with heat recovery) grilles. The directionality of the timber cladding further accentuates Piil’s unique form.

All elements of the Piil treehouse are designed to be prefabricated off-site and then transported to remote and picturesque locations, where they are assembled to create a unified structure. This off-site fabrication ensures a higher level of craftsmanship and results in a well-insulated accommodation unit with triple-glazed low-emissivity (low-E) glazing. The treehouse is equipped with an efficient air-source heat pump and MVHR system, providing ventilation, heating, cooling, and hot water throughout most of the year. On particularly cold or hot days, additional support is provided by an integrated radiator or an external condenser. The Arsenit team completed the first prototype of Piil in early 2023, and a total of four Piil treehouses are planned for the site. The positioning of these treehouses has been carefully planned using a point cloud model of the forest to frame sunset views of the Jägala River.

The Piil treehouse by Arsenit is a remarkable combination of architectural innovation, sustainability, and natural integration. Its thoughtful design and attention to detail provide a luxurious and immersive experience in the heart of the Estonian forest. The use of prefabrication techniques ensures high-quality craftsmanship, while the choice of materials blends harmoniously with the surrounding environment. As the Piil treehouse concept evolves, it has the potential to redefine the way we experience nature and architecture, offering a new perspective on sustainable and immersive accommodation.

Studio Arsenit

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