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Treehouse gets the ax

Treehouse gets the ax

Updated: 2012-04-18 07:52

By Shi Yingying in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Who says only children like treehouses?

"I planted the tree myself and no law says I couldn't build a treehouse in my own tree, so I started the construction on my own and no one objected to it," said 66-year-old Huang Chonggao.

"It makes you feel as free as a bird."

A skilled craftsman, Huang took less than a year to finish the design, prune his 31-year-old camphor tree in the middle of his courtyard, set up the platform and cast the concrete, completing the structure in 2005.

 Treehouse gets the ax

Sixty-six-year-old Huang Chonggao is at the scene as workers demolish his treehouse in Pudong, Shanghai, on April 13. Gao Erqiang / China Daily 

He said the inspiration came from a trip to India in 1993 where he saw people living in treehouses.

"I sometimes brought friends over to play mahjong all night - smokers would have a cigarette on the balcony overlooking the village."

Through its glass window is the countryside landscape of Shanghai's suburbs in Pudong, different from the stereotypical image of Shanghai as a city of skyscrapers.

Huang only lived in his treehouse for about three months, later renting it out to migrant workers for 300 yuan ($47.60) a month.

He spent 8,000 yuan on materials.

"In Shanghai, 8,000 yuan couldn't even buy you one square meter of an apartment, but look at what Huang did - he built his own kingdom here," said Qiu Xiaoqing, Huang's neighbor, pointing to two rows of bamboo that Huang planted next to his wintersweet.

The 14-square-meter suite is equipped with an eco-friendly open-air toilet on the balcony, a wood bed for two, an electric fan and even a bathtub.

Water and electricity come through pipes and wires stretched across the window.

Yet the end has come for the tree - and the treehouse - to make way for the city's Middle Ring Road.

Last week, a wrecking crew climbed up the rusty iron staircase soaring straight into the five-meter-high tree, surprised to see what was behind its thick leaves.

Below the tree there was once a tiny stone bridge connecting it with the village over a small pond, though now nothing remains but a pile of debris.

Hu Xiangdong, a 62-year-old Shanghai native who has a keen interest in architecture, came to visit the treehouse after hearing about it on the local news on April 12. He managed to see the treehouse, the last structure in the leveled field.

The wrecking crew tore it down the next morning.

"Huang's little resort was a genius piece of work. I really admire his creativity," Hu said.

As for Huang, he waved goodbye to the treehouse, carried away his favorite wintersweet, and left on a motorcycle without a word.