Tadashi Kawamata Builds Tree Houses in New York City

Nature girl I am not, but the manicured lawns of Madison Square Park are tame enough for anyone to handle, and this month Japanese artist Tadashi Kawamata added something special to the site. He built ten pine houses and put them up in, you guessed it, the park’s trees.

There are deep themes underlying the work. These roughhewn ivory towers, which are out of reach and have no obvious egresses, explore classism and elitism. The fun and adventure of play spaces are also complicated by Kawamata’s tree hut design, which echoes the look of the flimsy shelters often erected by the homeless.

At first I was really put out that you couldn’t actually go inside the houses. But then I remembered all the times I went into tree houses as a kid. They were always a letdown—awkward seating and sparse accommodations. But it was having a space away from everyone else that was more appealing than the space itself. So don’t bypass the chance to go and see Kawamata’s installation for that reason. There is much to appreciate with your feet on the ground.

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