This summer, and for the third time running, Hamburg’s Neighborhood University welcomed a range of new and rather exotic additions on its field. Under the capable aegis of architects Benjamin Becker and Philipp Löper, the project by HCU Hamburg’s Department of Urban Design hosted an open summer construction camp, inviting kids from the neighbourhood to come up with some spectacular structures that transcend the traditional tree house model.

Unlike most amateur enthusiasts, however, the participating kids did not build sneaky hide-outs for themselves, but for several fictitious clients with their very own likes and dislikes. To this end, the children collected information on their imaginary customers, their characters, circumstances, and creature comforts, to serve as inputs for the different designs – a playful process that incorporated both the children’s ideas as well as tried-and-tested construction concepts and a range of recycled materials. And while environmental considerations ruled, the entire project also ensured a focus on kid-friendly techniques and easy-to-work-with materials.

Now finished and towering over the site, the eclectic creations attract a flock of local kids who love to explore the Neighborhood University’s site – and even know most of the young builders’ and adult supporters’ names, sharing and spreading the tree houses’ history.

“Such self-organization practices open up a crucial potential for future urbanity; one in which learning is understood as a process of active space creation as well as the development of socio-economic and cultural competencies,” states Bernd Kniess as Dean of the Department of Urban Design. “This makes it an important contribution to the discussion on neighborhood-level temporary educational models and a key component of the learning city.”

Text by Sebastian Bührig & Benjamin Becker
All photos, incl. the header image, Benjamin Becker