Some of the most interesting examples of Midlothian architecture and community are found at the Bilston Glen Treehouses. Originally a protest site, started in 2002 in reaction to a planned re-routing of the A701, it is now an ever-evolving activist community with visitors coming from all over the world.
People come for a variety of reasons – all are welcome as long as they contribute towards the community in some way through house maintenance, communal cooking or tending the vegetable plot. There is a small group of permanent residents who have the right to the best houses, with the ones situated high in the trees used mainly by visitors. While some of the houses are just basic shelters, others have been lovingly designed – recycled crafted structures with heating, carpets and bookcases. The higher houses are lashed to the trees using bicycle inner tubes and ropes, allowing the trees to move, and are taken down every couple of years to avoid damage.
I’ve always been fascinated by ‘self-built’ communities – those purposely created rather than those that organically evolve. Stereotyped by the hippy commune in recent decades, there is a wide range of examples – indeed often bound by common idealogy – the eco-village; the co-op; the Christian community. How humans organise themselves and design communal architecture to live together harmoniously is fascinating. Nowadays most of us live in urban environments with varying degrees of contact with our neighbours. Whatever your politics, settlements like Bilston help you reflect on how you would design your ideal community.
See further images of Bilston in Winter Spring Summer slideshow below and www.bilstonglen-abs.org.uk and here for more info on Bilston Glen. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to tell me about your Midlothian community, whatever its shape or size.