Exploration of forest canopies is no easy task—since researchers can't cross between tree-tops, they have to clamber up trunks, explore, descend, and then climb the next. Or they did, until the advent of the SolVin Bretzel Canopy Raft.

A canopy raft is, basically, an inflatable PVC pontoon frame with high-tension netting spread between. They're pre-inflated and lifted into positioned via airship, dirigible, or helicopter. Once in position, the rafts are set down among the tree-tops, allowing researchers unfettered access to the uppermost reaches of the forest ecosystem. Scientists can observe from the raft, rappel from it too—they can even live on its temporary floor for several days at a time.

The pretzel shape of the raft in the top image is known as a SolVin Bretzel, created by architect Gilles Ebersolt (yes, like "Pretzel" but in German), a recent design that replaced the previous, octagonal raft shape. Its unique 400m² area offers numerous advantages over its predecessors. It's a more structurally sound platform that maximizes surface area, preventing any outlying section from folding or collapsing. It's also extremely lightweight—meaning it doesn't crush the new growth of the canopy upon which it rests.

[Neat-O-Rama - Solva Plastics - Radeau Des Cimes - Gadling - Gilles Bersolt Designs (.pdf)]


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