Elizabeth’s Tree House, Barretstown

The Healing Center


Barretstown Camp, located in County Kildare, Ireland is part of the Serious Fun Children’s Network founded by Paul Newman to provide therapeutic and respite care for children whose lives and their families have been affected by life-changing illnesses. Barretstown organise camps to help rebuild confidence in a natural fun environment. They reach out to children from all over Europe.


Since Barretstown opened in 1994 it has been constantly evolving and adapting to improve the quality of the experience at the camp for attendees as well the staff and volunteers. The camp operates primarily in the spring /summer /autumn and when the children are on summer holidays and also operates at weekends and school holidays during the school year.



The existing dining hall by design and condition was inadequate for the future needs of the children and a decision was taken to provide for a new building to better accommodate the various new requirements. The architect’s team decided to create a whole new dining experience for its campers.


A somewhat forgotten woodland at the heart of the Barretstown site offered a rare opportunity to locate the new dining pavilion ‘floating’ amongst a stand of existing oak trees. Using the modest ‘tree-house’ as a concept, the building evolved into an enchanted portal, weaving through and around the forest.


  • Location: County Kildare, Ireland
  • Time: 2016
  • Architect: McCauley Daye O’Connell Architects
  • Type of Wood: Sibirian larch
  • Time elapsed: 2018
  • Type of SiOO:X: SiOO:X Cladding protection
  • Photo: Donal Murphy / Alan Coultas

Upon entry to the main hall, one is rewarded with expansive space and generous views of the Barretstown lake and the remarkable landscape vista beyond. Use of natural materials, both inside and out, are a response to the building’s fascinating natural context. Allowing the building to nestle comfortably within the forest while offering a warmth and intimacy inside.


Flanked by a secret garden wall and castle landscaping, the radiating diagrid pattern weaves and forms a new building which adopts to the landscape and characteristics of the wider Barretstown grounds and structures. The building blurs the lines of indoor/ outdoor space with irregular shapes and floating terraces. Energetic vibrant colours are used extensively throughout with a sense of (serious) fun in mind. Barretstown is a playful place in constant dialogue with nature, a new focal point, an inclusive space for all to enjoy collectively night and day.


The new larger building, clad externally in SiOO:X treated Siberian larch is a dynamic sustainable and open building, located centrally in the existing campus of buildings in a strategic location along the courtyard street, adjacent to the existing walled garden and nestled within the existing trees. The new building is 893 square metres and was complete in November 2016.


  • The project was Joint Winner – Best Design, RIAI Architecture Awards 2017.
  • Versatility to over treat with colour finishes
  • Ecological attributes in health and well being situation.

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