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Tree House Unit at Camp Graham

Tree House Unit at Camp Graham of Girl Scouts – North Carolina Coastal Pines is a new tree house project at its resident camp on Kerr Lake in Vance County. In September 2012, as part of a multi-year property development plan, Girl Scouts – North Carolina selected a tree house unit concept and site plan developed by Weinstein Friedlein Architects.

Tree-House-Unit-at-Camp-Graham-By-Weinstein-Friedlein-Architects-02-Mark-Herboth-759x602 Tree House Unit at Camp Graham / Weinstein Friedlein Architects

© Mark Herboth

The complex consists of six tree house units designed to each sleep twelve, a bath house, a program pavilion and campfire circle. The units will be connected by an elevated walkway and will also include a lift, meeting accessibility compliance as set by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Tree-House-Unit-at-Camp-Graham-By-Weinstein-Friedlein-Architects-03-Mark-Herboth-759x410 Tree House Unit at Camp Graham / Weinstein Friedlein Architects

© Mark Herboth

Camp and outdoor education are core tenets of Girl Scouting and contribute positively to the overall Girl Scout experience. “Girl Scouting provides unmatched camping experiences and we are excited to enhance our program to include tree houses,” “When a girl goes to camp, she grows in self-confidence all while building friendships and learning leadership skills in the great outdoors.” – Lisa Jones / chief executive officer at Girl Scouts – North Carolina Coastal Pines.

Tree-House-Unit-at-Camp-Graham-By-Weinstein-Friedlein-Architects-04-Mark-Herboth-745x1000 Tree House Unit at Camp Graham / Weinstein Friedlein Architects

© Mark Herboth

Located in Vance County, the 155 acre camp sits on picturesque Kerr Lake. The property currently hosts two platform tent units, two cabin units and open fields ideal for tent camping and group activities. In addition, the camp also has an open-air amphitheater and dining hall. Camp Graham is used for resident camp during the summer months and is available for troop camping, area Girl Scout events and community rental during the school year.

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© Mark Herboth

In addition to Camp Graham, the Girl Scout council also owns Camp Mary Atkinson near Selma in Johnston County, Camp Hardee on the Pamlico River in Beaufort County, and Camp Mu-Sha-Ni in Richmond County. Other strategic improvements to camps will include the addition of electricity to cabins, renovation of bath houses, and winterization of some unit facilities.

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© Mark Herboth

“The tree houses and the Brightleaf program shelter have electricity, lights, and ceiling fans. The heated, lower level bath house has four toilets, four showers, and five lavatories. There is a fire circle, picnic tables and benches, as well as an outdoor cook space. A looping trail behind the unit crosses the brook and circles around for an expansive view of Kerr Lake. Six treehouses with six beds and mattresses each Unit building with wheelchair lift, tables, chairs and electricity Bathhouse with toilets, lavatories, and hot-water showers Fire circle with benches, picnic tables and cooking grills Closed in the winter.” – Camp Graham / Girl Scouts of NC Coastal Pines

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© Mark Herboth

Weinstein Friedlein Architects:

At a lakeside camp, where tented and cabin campsites are proven attractions, the Girl Scouts set out to add a different sort of shelter. They wanted treehouses, something to evoke the sense of adventure, fantasy, delight found in the lofty constructs of backyards and forest getaways. The new 36-person site at Camp Graham consists of a series of pole structures along the wood’s edge, linked by an elevated path that winds among the trunks of the native trees. The challenge in treehouse making is to build without doing harm to the trees, and to extend access to all campers.

Tree-House-Unit-at-Camp-Graham-By-Weinstein-Friedlein-Architects-08-Mark-Herboth-759x709 Tree House Unit at Camp Graham / Weinstein Friedlein Architects

© Mark Herboth

The Camp Graham structures are supported on tall wood poles that lightly touch the ground. They lean toward one another amid the surrounding, irregular tree trunks, becoming part of the forest. These frames are draped in canopies that combine both solid and translucent materials, which playfully catch or transmit the dappled sunlight that makes its way through the natural tree canopy. Each of the all-weather shelters accommodates six campers in bunks and cots, and each one includes a daylit central core, a place for playful mingling. The stick-framed forms soar overhead, reaching up to the branches of the trees that surround. The edges of end panels and floor boards stop short, allowing screened slots to naturally ventilate the space.

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© Mark Herboth

The connecting path begins at grade, rises gently and meanders a near-level course through the trees. Galvanized wire farm fencing minimizes the feeling of enclosure and promotes a sense of height, of being above the ground, in the trees. The elevated walk connects all six sleeping shelters and leads to the common troop house, located where the falling terrain allows a lower level for showers and storage. Stairs and a chair lift provide direct access between the troop level and the forest floor, which also provides location for the central firepit that is a feature of all the encampments at the lake.

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© Mark Herboth

The lean-to frame is built with the same simple utility poles used most commonly as infrastructure. These poles fit comfortably among the trees with which they stand. As a product, the poles were economical and readily available up to the 45’ length required. To join the poles to the foundation, workmen on site saw kerfs for the steel plates which pin the structure together.

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© Mark Herboth

Project Data:

Project name: Tree House Unit at Camp Graham
Location: 334 Regional Water Ln, Henderson, North Carolina 27537, United States
Coordinates: 36.432493, -78.356055
Type: Shelter / Cabin / Lodge, Tree House
Camp Site area: 155 acre
Project area: 2,850 sq.ft / 257 sqm
Groundbreaking: March 24, 2014
Status: Built
Completion Year: 2015
Visit Girl Scouts – North Carolina Coastal Pines’s Website: here

Awards:

  • 2016 – The American Institute of Architect (AIA Awards) – AIA North Carolina Awards – Category: Institutional – Honor Award

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Girl Scouts – North Carolina Coastal Pines –
Architects:

General Contractor : CT Wilson, Durham, NC
Engineers: Neville Engineering, Chapel Hill, NC
Manufacturers: Trex, NICHIHA
Text Description: © Courtesy of Weinstein Friedlein Architects
Images: © Weinstein Friedlein Architects, Mark Herboth

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