In designing this home, we asked ourselves whether we were capable of building something that really respected its natural surroundings and did not just pay politically correct lip service to issues like sustainability, alternative energy and ecology. Perhaps ultimately it was a question of making the most of the qualities of the given natural environment, maintaining the utmost respect for what nature offered, and impacting this as little as possible. We thought a good way to start might be to adapt the volumetric line of the building to the existing forest, leaving the trees to choose the way they should be experienced.
As the starting point for this process, we identified the clusters of trees that work together in the forest and then dared call everything outside that “anti-forest”, or a construction-susceptible void that required no removal of trees. We generated a flat geometry on top of this void avoiding the trunks, measuring heights from the existing ground level and the slope of the roof planes to comply with building regulations. This was an immensely complex part of the process. We had to do numerous tests before arriving at a solution that met all the parameters throughout the final volume. What appeared was a non-Cartesian geometry, a faceted volume that complied both with topographic conditions and planning requirements: an exciting brief in an exciting space. This geometry helped us define and discover ways of experimenting with built spaces and their relationship with the outside landscape. Accommodating both forest and building regulations proved a surprising and fruitful experience. The personal circumstances of the owner prevented conventional configuration and use of the home. We had to generate spaces whose programme could be adapted over time to the owner’s idiosyncrasies. So we set about defining the possibilities afforded by the resulting geometry, dividing space into what we called “specialised fingers”, each of which would house a specific programme with ad hoc spatial resolution. The height differences on the allotment indicated the half-storey step solution, which made the interior two dwellings in one.
On the highest level, with independent entrance, we located the main entrance, family living rooms and games room. As the building descends, volumes become increasing private. First comes the living room/bar and projection room/studio; on the next level is a leisure programme with a heated indoor pool, then a kitchen-dining-general purpose room with a large covered outdoor terrace. At the bottom is the master bedroom with bathrooms, a gym/general purpose room and sauna. We determined to make the most of the fabulous landscape, its geometry, light and spatial conditions. As the house has become gradually enveloped, its glass and stone skins have been transformed by the proximity of the trees, the shade they provide and the way they interact with the specific programme of each specialised finger. In order to bring all the rooms into direct, intimate contact with the exterior, the skins that define the broken volume have etched transparencies, opacities or screenprints of varied density. In this way, the forest has been able to imprint itself on this strange object that has encroached on its tranquillity. Inside, floors, walls and ceilings are covered with amber coloured resin-coated wood, bringing the forest into the interior and blurring outside/inside divisions.
The interior space is almost like a fossil, there even before the house was built. A novel feature slides along the upper floors, a reflection of the owner-collector himself: a polycarbonate cabinet structure with iridescent sheens to contain a mass of tiny inhabitants; a way of using staid collector habits to create a unique, highly personal environment.
Three years later... elevation, elegance, enthusiasm, grace.