The Evans Tree House at Garvan Woodland Gardens

hot springs, arkansas

Nestled in a natural Ouachita Mountain hillside along Lake Hamilton at Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas, the Evans Children’s Adventure Garden welcomed a new tree house to the grounds in summer of 2018. This tree house is the first of three planned for the garden that will provide an interactive educational experience for visiting children as part of an ambitious plan to bring children back into the woods. The tree house uses a rich visual and tactile environment to stimulate the mind and body to strengthen connections back to the natural world, while accommodating the needs of all users.

This unique structure is a defining small project for modus. From design to fabrication we were able to merge our childhood-earned knowledge of the natural world with our hard-earned think, make, do philosophy. Because of our own mostly-rural upbringing, it is easy to take for granted our strong connection to the creeks, forests, insects, and animals of Arkansas. However, many children in the modern world are unfortunately disconnected from this type of play.

The underlying theme of dendrology, the study of trees and wooded plants, drives both the form and program of the structure. The 113 fins comprising the thermalized Arkansas-sourced Southern Yellow Pine screen creates a semi-transparent and an evocative form dynamically shrouding multiple levels of spaces for children and adults alike that refocus attention to the natural wonders of the forest canopy.

The mysterious form, creative play of shadow and light and sound, exploration of material, and adventure that the Tree House provides becomes a magical experience within the Ouachita Forest…easily bending among native pines and oaks.

Typology Civic + Educational
location Hot Springs, Arkansas
completed 2018
photography Timothy Hursley


  • 2019 AIA Small Projects Award
  • 2019 AIA Gulf States Honor Award
  • 2019 AIA Arkansas Honor Award
  • 2019 Fay Jones Alumni Design Honor Award