There’s a good reason why he-centric residential sanctuaries are referred to as “caves” and not aeries, lofts, perches or suites. Like a rusted tin of Copenhagen, the man cave is hidden and obscured from prying eyes; tucked away discreetly into a garage or a garden shed — or that back room in the finished basement originally meant to house Grandma LouAnne on her annual holiday visits.
Don’t tell that to Jono Williams, a mechanical engineer and graphic designer from New Zealand who has taken it upon himself to lift the man cave from its grungy, grotto-y associations and elevate it to dizzying new heights with the Skysphere.
A little bit treehouse, a little bit Central European observation tower, a little bit John Lautner tribute and a whole lot Consumer Electronics Show fever dream, the Skysphere can best be described as a tricked-out, solar-powered man cave in the sky. Topped with a “rooftop starview platform,” it’s the kind of place that George Jetson would feel comfortable inviting a few co-workers from Spacely Space Sprockets over for poker night.
A grade-A dude (“In my spare time I enjoy travelling, snowboarding, motocross and hanging out with friends”) with I.T. inclinations, Williams has so far dedicated in the ballpark of $50,000 — and 3,000 “DIY’ing hours" — building and outfitting his ladder-accessible smart lair with an assortment of high-tech bells and whistles: voice-command colored LED “mood lighting,” a refrigerated in-couch beer dispenser (!), wireless sound system, high-speed Internet, Miracast projector and on.
Encased in a 360-degree “viewing window” with an overall circumference of 46 feet, Williams’ he-haven is powered by flexible photovoltaic strips and controlled by a custom Android app.
As far as all-important privacy goes, Williams hasn’t yet invested in smart windows that go from transparent to opaque with just the tap of a smartphone button although that’s not completely off the table: "... original plan was to use electronic smart film overlay on my window that goes from opaque to transparent with the supply of electrical current, but for the sake of my bank loan balance, I held off for now."
As mentioned, one can only access the Skysphere’s inner sanctum by ascending 33 feet up a ladder housed within the structure’s hollow steel pedestal. At the top, you’ll find a motorized entrance door that's opened via biometric fingerprint lock system. So much for passwords and secret knocks …
Writes Williams of his Antipodean escape that rises high above the Manawantu Plains outside of Linton, on New Zealand’s North Island:
Initially my plan was to build some sort of structure in a tree or between multiple trees. After fighting with designs for months – trying to come up with something that would be completely robust (would not get damaged by forces applied to trees in high winds and the natural tendency for trees to grow), I let go of the idea by building the tree house in the tree – why not support the structure by a huge steel column that you fix virtually anywhere? In amongst the trees, on a hilltop, or even the ocean … the possibilities are endless.
Williams explains that while he built Skysphere as his “own hangout without the intention of selling,” he’s open to the idea of building more treehouse-inspired man-chambers for an admiring man-public.
While “kitted-out” to the extreme, Skysphere isn’t completely without primitive, off-grid appeal. Much like with the proto-man cave otherwise known as the tree fort (no girls allowed because they totally have cooties), supplies are lifted to and from the structure with a simple rope-and-pulley system.
As for facilities, there are currently none as Williams didn’t incorporate plumbing into the bro-tower’s design. Williams does plan to eventually build a small bathroom “in the trees near the tower.” For now, however, Williams will have to descend from his WiFi-equipped man tower to answer nature’s call en plein air.
Skysphere presents a weird dichotomy. Surrounded by nature and lacking indoor plumbing, what Williams has created boasts huge roughin' it appeal. It's like camping in a spaceship. Yet Skysphere — dressed to the nines in smart-home tech — is, in the end, unabashedly connected. It's the best of both worlds for a man who wants to (kind of) escape from it all, I guess. My main question/concern: how does he even get a signal out there?