Everything they say about studying architecture is true: we work laughably long hours, and adopt ridiculous routines and habits over the many years it takes to complete the course. I’ve been one of those people for 2 years now, hiding to keep working overnight in the studio, choosing to buy expensive paper instead of lunch, and exclaiming over a particularly pleasing timber joint. Studying architecture teaches you to question the spaces around us and, for me personally, how to define a ‘home’.
I was lucky enough to start this personal exploration while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in America. Here, thru-hikers must meticulously pack and carry what is to be their home for up to 6 months of continuous hiking. In a series of interviews, a collection of hikers opened up their back packs to me and shared the items that for them, create a sense of home along the trail. From the ultra-light to the more nostalgic packer, I was intrigued by this new meaning of ‘mobile home’.
On returning to my studies - trading the wilderness of the trail for the urban wilderness of London with much displeasure - I was determined to find a way to combine my passion for architecture with my love for the outdoors. Story sound familiarly? You can imagine my absolute joy in finding a company and product like Tentsile that does exactly this; using trees and the outdoors to define a home.
I owe it to the universe, luck and amazing timing that I was given a position in the London office, right as the rest of the world found Tentsile tree tents and their video went viral! Now, instead of interning at an architectural practice, fetching coffees and scratching my head over computer software, I get to spend my summer sharing Tentsile products with people all over the globe.
Every day has been an exciting correspondence between like-minded people, keen to get outside and experience a new connection with nature. Complete with logistical complexities and strange requests, the movement of these tree tents around the world is astonishing. With camps and customers stretching as far from Ireland to India, America to Australia, New Zealand to New York, I cannot believe I am a part of this global phenomenon.
Even though studying architecture has been the hardest thing I’ve done so far, I am grateful it opened up opportunities like this. With one more year at university left, I've got the determination to learn more about living in and for Nature.
A home can be many things: a city or a forest, or not even a fixed place at all. I think I’ve found a home in Tentsile, and look forward to being a part of sharing it with the world!
Alex Shirley-Smith