We chat to Canopy and Stars MD Tom Dixon about Crane 29, the unusual lodgings he’ll be constructing on the Harbourside this month
TBM: So how on Earth did this project come about?
Tom: I have known Simon – our designer and builder – for years. We met through a love of wood, amazing spaces and sustainable design, and have worked on several treehouse projects together. We have always had a plan to create something together and, being based in Bristol, we wanted it to be here. The idea of using Crane 29 came to me at the end of a long meeting. Our offices look over the harbourside and I suddenly thought; “Wouldn’t it be amazing if people could actually stay in one of the cranes?” It grew from there! We were lucky that Bristol City Council is so forward-thinking and showed their support for the project. Andy King and the team at M Shed are all helping to make it happen.
What has been the trickiest part of bringing this together?
This has been three years in the making! There have been hurdles along the way. We had to come up with a great design to get the project through planning, and we were delighted when that happened. One of the challenges was to create a design that didn’t affect Crane 29 in any way. The cranes are listed and important parts of Bristol’s heritage so we need to make sure everything will be left just as we found it. Our aim is to make the build as sustainable as possible too – we have B&Q on board helping us with brilliant solutions for this. The next challenge is the build itself – getting a team up to the crane is a challenge but luckily Bower House Construction are adept at this.
Why are Bristol audiences receptive to such out-there ideas as this?
Bristol is such a creative and inspiring city, with so many people doing amazing things. People are always open to new ideas – including the people who run the city. Bristol has a real ‘green’ heritage too – something our founder Alastair Sawday has long been a big part of – so the sustainability credentials are hugely important. We want Canopy & Stars at Crane 29 to be a symbol of what’s great about the city.
So, you’ve got a little ecosystem planned for the treehouse?
We want the treehouse to be a bubble of nature and are planning a real sensory experience, with sounds, smells and elements of nature all around you inside, and a green roof outside – planted to attract pollinators. All profits are also going to Friends of the Earth so by staying you’ll be helping nature too.
Help us visualise what’s in store…
There will be a bedroom and bathroom to the rear, on the harbourside itself. We are having to be clever with the use of design because it’s a smallish space – plenty roomy enough, but we’re trying to pack a lot in! The front is a living area, with table and chairs and a place to relax and get your nature fix while looking out across the harbour. The living area is going to have huge windows and, without getting all ‘estate agent’, it’s probably going to have one of the best views of the city you can find.
Breakfast will be delivered in the morning so you can wake to local pastries, bread and fruit. As for dinner, you’ll probably want to eat out – you’re spoiled for choice in that area, especially with Cargo on the doorstep. We are building a staircase to get up there, and plan to have secure doors on it so no one, apart from those staying, will have access.
Bookings are being taken via a ballot process which is open now – register at canopyandstars.co.uk/crane29. The next draw takes place on 3 July (for August and September dates)