The geometric form of the tree network is deduced from a single mechanism. The discovery that the shape of a heat-generating volume can be optimized to minimize the thermal resistance between the volume and a point heat sink, is used to solve the kinematics problem of minimizing the time of travel between a volume (or area) and one point. The optimal path is constructed by covering the volume with a sequence of volume sizes (building blocks), which starts with the smallest size and continues with stepwise larger sizes (assemblies). Optimized in each building block is the overall shape and the angle between constituents. The speed of travel may vary from one assembly size to the next, however, the lowest speed is used to reach the infinity of points located in the smallest volume elements. The volume-to-point path that results is a tree network. A single design principle - the geometric optimization of volume-to-point access - determines all the features of the tree network. © 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.