Somewhere in the secluded backwoods of British Columbia, hidden from view and out of ear shot of the civilized world, an egg shaped tree house in perched overlooking Whistler mountain. The beautifully handcrafted wood structure sits in perfect harmony with the tall pine forest that surrounds it. But who would build something like this and why? Turns out the former part of that question is a lot easier to answer than the latter.
The young man behind the treehouse is Joel Allen, who, after unsuccessfully attempting to retire at age 26, decided to try his hand at carpentry. While working and exploring the woods around Whistler, Joel got to thinking about a permanent outdoor sleeping solution, which set him on a path to build a tree house.
After playing around with a couple of ideas a friend suggested an egg shape. This struck Joel as divine genius. Unable to afford any land he decided to build on land owned by the Canadian government – a risky, but not all together unheard of practice in British Columbia. After finding a suitable spot, a long process of covert construction took place that required ferrying tools and supplies out into the woods. Once completed the house was giving the name HemLoft and Joel took up residence. To this day the location has been kept a secret.
Even now after its completion, Joel is still unable to fully explain why he decided to build the house. “I found myself grasping for some sort of rationalization that would make me seem less crazy, ” he says, “I guess… I just wanted to build something cool.” After the exclusive write up in Dwell and all the buzz he has gotten from the design blogosphere it looks like Joel’s career prospects have improved significantly. However, we hope his recent notoriety doesn’t garner the scornful ire of the wrathful Royal Canadian Mounties.
While many large metropolitan areas like New York and San Francisco have begun to embrace the urban cycling movement by widening shoulders and putting in dedicated bike lanes, Los Angeles remains one of the most egregious exceptions. Cyclists here must contend with mile upon mile of cracked cement, gaping pot-holes, non-existent shoulders, as well as the most oblivious drivers in the world. However, despite the rough conditions, or perhaps because of them, the city is home to a thriving underground cycling community dedicated to taking back the streets of LA. No group holds more infamous regard than the late-night riders of The Wolfpack Hustle and their organizer Don Ward.
The group known for crashing the LA Marathon course and racing a JetBlue flight from Burbank to Long Beach has done quite a bit to elevate the cycling scene, both locally and nationally. The man responsible for transforming this gang of once rowdy joyriders into a spirited group of cycling enthusiasts is Don Ward. In the early days, the Wolfpack Hustle was a 2-wheeled outlet for deviant behavior. It was all about mobbing intersections, running red lights, harassing drivers, and going insanely fast. Don has helped take the adversarial nature out of the group and focus their energy on cycling advocacy and enjoying the roads in a fun safe way. They still go insanely fast though.
The above video is a short vignette of the Wolf Pack and Don Ward, shot and edited by Colin Arlen and Estevan Padilla.
When The Dark Side of the Lens was released back in 2010, we were completely floored. The stunning imagery and inspirational narration offered an eye-opening glimpse into the world of professional surf photography. At the time, the film lit up the blogosphere and “went viral” in a proper sense. Since then it has gone on to win a slew of short film awards for cinematography and direction. It definitely ranks in our top 10 all-time favorite outdoor short films.
Just last week, however, a reader of the Aether Journal and good friend of the brand sent us an email saying she had just watch Dark Side and that we should check it out. Happy though we were to hear of yet another enthusiastic fan of the film, it raise the serious concern that there are people out there who have still not seen it. For shame! Since the film predates the Journal, we felt it’d only be fair to give it its own post and hopefully expose it to a few more individuals. So sit back and behold one of the most inspirational figures in surf photography: Mikey Smith.
Ever since The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn entered America’s collective consciousness, the notion of lazily drifting down a river has come to represent the very essence of childhood escapism. However this highly romanticized image of life on the river has captured the minds of many adults as well – an open ended adventure for anyone willing to kick up their heels and see where the current takes them.
While the Mississippi River may be a little congested these days to recreate such an voyage, there is an operation in Sweden that hits very near the mark. The Klarälven River (Clear River), which runs through the heavily forested Värmland, has been used to transport timber for over 400 years. Recently timber operations have been switched over entirely to railways which has opened the river up for recreational use.
Then outdoor travel outfit called Vildmark offers self-guided river rafting trips along the Klarälven during the summer months. This is a very hands-on trip, and the 5-8 day journey begins with the construction of your raft. Under the guidance of an Vildmark instructor you will lash together a raft from readily available timber, complete with free standing tent. After a brief overview of the river’s course you’ll be sent out to explore. You can also rent mountain bikes, fishing supplies, and a canoe to bring along with you.
The raft drifts along at about normal walking speed, so there is plenty of time for fishing, swimming, and conversing as you enjoy the scenic riverside. At night you can put ashore to camp or anchor in one of the many protected coves. After a few days, the ebbs and flow of life on the river will become a steady rhythm. At the end the rafts are broken down and you’re obliged to put your shoes back on and return to civilization. A sad day to be sure.
While bamboo has long been used for temporary structures and scaffolding through out the developing world, new weatherproof sealing techniques have allowed the fast-growing and incredibly strong stalks to be used for permanent structures as well. Leading the way in this burgeoning eco-friendly construction sector is Ibuku, the award-winning architectural firm behind The Green School
Ibuku was founded by Elora Hardy. Raised in Bali and schooled in the California, Elora gave up a cushy NYC design job at Donna Karan to returned to the jungle of Indonesia to follow her dream of sustainable design. Currently Ibuku is in the midst of constructing Green Village, a planned community of environmentally integrated homes made entirely out of bamboo. From the structure’s load-barring exo-skeloton to the brushed floor boards to the watertight roof shingles, the versatility of bamboo is really what is on display. Located along the Ayung River valley and 30 minutes from Bali’s famed surf beaches, the Green Village hopes to show that with innovative design and new construction techniques, both luxury and sustainable can be achieved at once.
Unlike practically every other architectural firm, Ibuku doesn’t use traditional blueprints. Instead the designer built intricate scale models out of tiny pieces of whittled down bamboo. Each tiny stalk is mapped into a computer program and tested for overall structural integrity. The builders then search for a full-size stalk that matches the same curvature as the model and begin to construction the building.
Bamboo construction offers equatorial nations the ability to harness their own readily available natural resource to build lasting infrastructure.
To listen to Elora talk more about the Green Village and other sustainable initiatives you can watch her InkTalk here.
Due to the dense cloud coverage along Norway’s ragged north-western coast, residents there rarely get to see the Aurora Borealis – a meteorological reality that seem unfairly cruel. If people are going to endure the bleak arctic tundra and near total darkness of winter they should at least be able to watch the sky occasionally ignite into a psychedelic display of celestial fireworks. Seriously, is that too much to ask??
However, this year’s unusually dry winter and somewhat disturbing up-tick in solar flares presented some unique viewing opportunities. Not wanting to miss out on the action, filmmaker/photographer Stian Rekdal climbed up into the surrounding hills to capture the stunning lights as they raked across the port town of Sukkertoppen. When he returned, he had captured some truly spectacular footage. The film shows a cornucopia of color that I’m sure residents will reminisce longingly about when the monochromatic grey of winter returns to the coast. Solider on brave souls of Norway, solider on.
Amsterdam, the undisputed urban cycling capital of the world, has 40% of all traffic movements by bicycle. While many cities across the US are just now tinkering with the progressive novelty of a bike lane, Holland has had an extensive network of dedicated bike paths, traffic signal, and rental stations for decades now. So when looking for the latest in trends in city cycling Holland is a good place to watch.
Recently the start-up Vanmoof has entered the scene with a line of urban commuters that are tailored to the needs of city dwellers. They started with the initial criteria of making a bicycle that is lightweight, extremely durable, and most importantly affordable. They’ve taken it a step further though by building the frame around a front and rear light, as well as working in an integrated locking system into the cross tube.
In the below video, brothers and founders Taco and Ties Carlier talk about their inspiration for starting Vanmoof.
In the densely populated Nørrebro neighborhood of Copenhagen, tightly packed buildings and narrow streets leave little room for courtyards or outdoor public space. To address this issue, the residents of one co-oped building decided to reach out to JDS architects to design an open rooftop space for them.
The design team developed a multifunctional space similar to that of a traditional local parks, complete with a grassy hill, lookout viewing platform, shock-absorbing surfaces, suspension bridge, outdoor barbecue, and wooden deck. The goal of this new site is to utilize what little space the co-op residents had and deliver a functional outdoor communal space.
Looking around at all the other shingled covered roof tops, it makes you wonder why more buildings aren’t covered in grass.
Nothing gives an outdoor adventure video that unmistakable epic feel quite like a seamless aerial tracking shot. Such awe-inspiring moments can add a tremendous amount of dramatic grandeur to practically any activity. Even a man sitting on a park bench eating a sandwich can be made to seem majestic so long as a helicopter is involved in the shooting.
In most videos, these show-stopping moments are used sparsely due to their enormous costs. However for aerial photographer outfit Brain Farm, over-the-top fly by shots are all they do. So when they release a highlight reel for 2012 you’re pretty much guaranteed shot after shot of “the good stuff”. Stunning landscape, snowboarding, grizzly bears, explosions, pretty ladies in bikinis, this video has got it all. Do yourself a favor: expand to full screen, wait for the HD version to load, and prepare to be blown away.
For anyone who finds traditional forms of shelter to be obnoxiously opaque, wishes they had just a little less privacy, or routinely fantasize about living in a snow globe, then the Attrap’Rêves hotel in Bouches-du-Rhone France has got just the place for you.
It’s translucent pods are the brainchild of French designer Pierre Stéphane, who wanted to offer visitors a more direct connection with the environment around them. Aside from being made entirely out of plastic, the pods are billed as ecco-friendly since once they’re deflated they can be remove entirely from the premise. We assume the wooden deck they built underneath it stays. Not all the pods are completely clear however, some are partially frosted, so people can select whichever level of privacy they feel comfortable with.
These pods represent the latest attempt to pair hotel accommodations with the exoticism of the wild outdoors. While various forms of “glamping” have gained traction in recent years, wrapping a hotel room in clear plastic and placing it in the wilderness may be the most extreme example. However for those already living in a bubble, this arrangement might be a perfect fit.