Sure, the Space Needle is cool and all. And the CN Tower is a marvel. But the Skysphere is like having your own personal lofted rotunda.
Jono Williams was all set to build the best treehouse ever, in New Zealand where he lives. It was to be so big, and so elaborate, that he feared whether the tree (or multiple trees) would support it in the first place. His solution: Weld a free-standing sphere, mounted on a 30-foot pole.
It took Williams 3,000 hours — he documented it fairly rigorously — and somewhere around $50,000 USD.
“I have a personal theory,” he says, “that if you sit back and think about how hard something will be, you will just convince yourself it can’t be done. The whole project made me think of climbing a huge set of stairs — each step was a task, and I’d focus on a few steps at a time. Next thing, I was finished.”
It was a long staircase. Many of the steps required skills he did not have — yet. Williams is a graphic designer and plastics engineer by day, so much of the build took place in the dark. He began by designing the entire thing in 3D modeling software. Next was ordering parts — huge, curved steel hoops, and a column big enough to climb up the inside.
He dug a hole and poured reinforced concrete for the foundation. He dug another hole so he could lay it on its side while he worked on it. He learned to weld, using a small inverter arc welder — and going through more than 250 pounds of electrodes.
“I ordered all the materials before I even knew how to weld,” Williams says. “I’m happy I didn’t think of the problems before I started. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have started, or would have sacrificed aesthetics for ease of manufacturing.”
Meanwhile, he worked on accessories: A beer-dispensing mini-fridge, mounted in a sofa; flexible, custom solar panels to fit on the outside of the sphere; custom lighting; a fingerprint scanner for the door.
Williams was assisted on his quest. His girlfriend, his boss, friends, even his brother and nephew helped. So did the backhoe and crane he used.
The result, well, you can see. A post on a hill, a view of Mount Ruapehu, a curved sofa that will serve you beer, and a profound sense of accomplishment.
Photos: Courtesy of Jono Williams. See more at his website.