The Biosphere Tree in the news

Back to home page

Testimonials

The following article appeared in theMarch 23 issue of the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper, by Wade Shirkey:

SWINGERS PAD: 1,500-square-foot, seven split-levels, on half-acre, forested, streamside, 'tree simple' plot; hardwood floors; surrounding lanai. Swing access -- satisfy the Tarzan in you. Continuous 'open house.'"

Some folk probably said Daniel Susott was a bit "out of this tree" even then -- without a childhood tree house, the Punahou student got his "tree fix" hanging out with his pet monkey, Baby, among the bamboo forests at Nu'uanu's Jackass Ginger.

Now 49, the successful physician, author/playwright and recognized Cambodian orphan humanitarian, has moved over a valley -- and built the most magnificent, treehouse hoity-toity upper Woodlawn has ever seen.
Built originally for area kids, the bare beginnings of a tree house on the property, he admits, was its biggest selling point. But, impressed with rapid growth of the huge banyan, things easily got out of hand, with Susott spending an estimated $40,000 on materials, as the expanding treehouse shot skyward. Nooks and crannies in the gnarled tree soon became stair treads leading to yet higher levels, crooks in branches, shelves, as tents provided more and more sleeping space hundreds of feet above the ground. Amenities soon included 12-vote Malibu lighting and compost toilet on In the spirit of "Location, Location, Location," the suspended seven-level collage of floors, suspended 120 feet in upper Manoa offers sweeping views of Waikiki and sea beyond. For access, the house boasts a swinging bridge to nearby "land houses," "Tarzan" swings, and ski-lift-type "zipline" to the street. A circular staircase, said Susott, is planned. Training the banyan's supporting aerial roots and branches with supple strands of bamboo from the forest's floor, created a "natural botanic umbrella" "flying buttress" of natural support for the suspended structure -- "A living sculpture," said Susott. "It's simply a big swing." Included in the arboreal interweavings is a spout of a Bodhi tree, which literally traces its "roots" to that of the Buddha. "I've been here in a wind," said visitor, Evern Williams "and I felt wonderfully supportive -- once my rational side accepted it! I felt the tree loving me!"

Treehouse artist and builder, Richard Gee, said building inspectors seem to agree: "When we first started building, every one on the island came to "guided us," he said diplomatically. "Actually, I think they didn't want to cross the (swinging rope) bridge!" to inspect.

Complaints about the towering structure from an unhappy neighbor, likewise fell on deaf ears, Susott said: "If it doesn't touch the ground, I didn't need a permit." And he's gotten used, he said, to getting turned down for home insurance. The ever-expanding tree now bridges the stream below, an often six-foot deep pool providing swimming, under a geosphere sphere, for other gymnastic "monkey business." Cushioning the view underneath are lotus, jack and star fruit, banana, liliko'i and guava -- and a Thai Spirit House for reverence. "This place is sacred in nature -- and playful 'in nature,'" said Susott, a self-described "Buddhist with Hindu leanings." Blessed originally by Tibetan rinpoches, the house also hosts monthly Buddhist Peace Fellowship meetings, teachings and meditation, as well as "Full Moon Sacred Sound Circles," allowing the sounds of timpani, Tibetan singing balls -- even Australian didgeridoo to join the sounds of resident bullfrogs and a family of seven wild pigs below. "It's conducive to meditation," said Susott. The home serves as headquarters for "starving artists" of each year's International Film Festival, those with more talent than wherewithal, and has hosted the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Nobel-prize nominee, author, Arthur C. Clark. Adults, said Susott, are as enamored of the treehouse as kids: "I've seen college professors beaming ear to ear" he said, as well as visiting 80-year-olds. Susott frequently abandons the nearby main house to sleep outdoors -- when the "No vacancy" sign isn't out. With an average two to three "guests" many weeks, "My father used to call this my 'Flop House.'" He maintains a resident housemate on the property to do "crowd control"for the popular treehouse -- as well as its own webpage: info@treehousehawaii.com. As many as 60 people have celebrated in the tree at one time.

Planned are solar panels, water catchment system and tank for showers, and "perhaps a hammock up there. . . " Susott plans out loud. In return for his expertise, Gee, who hauls materials up the tree via zip-line, or by hand, is the only one allowed to wear shoes in the house. Part Native American, part Chinese, he isn't sure if he's also part crazy: "I used to build houses," he said. "Now, I can't stand being inside any more."

Back to home page

Testimonials