At Home in the Forest – Forest House by Fearon Hay
Nestled at the foot of the Waitakere Ranges, a series of timber-clad, gabled forms embrace the client’s love of working with timber. Designed by Fearon Hay, the home is known as Forest House – the simple nomenclature reflecting the natural environment in which the house rests.
Timber is the hero of the architecture, meticulously worked into the finest details of the buildings, from the shingled roof to the slatted shutters and dark wooden floors. The client had collected timber over many years from far-flung areas of New Zealand, including large beams, pallets of native timbers and a substantial supply of totara wood, which allowed the design to explore the many different tones and textures of timber. Through the use of these recycled timbers, the structure, despite its size of over 600m2, is sympathetic with the rugged landscape. And while the Forest House exhibits a contemporary design intent, the recycled timber and archetypal gable structure imbue the home with a sense of timelessness – an intuitive sense that it has been on the site for decades.
Fearon Hay engages consciously with the aesthetic and functional tension between the solid weight and mass of timber and the material’s potential to become fine, even delicate. Heavy, rustic elements are balanced with an overall sense of space and light. Slatted timber shutters that enclose the home exhibit both qualities. Key to the building’s visual impact, the strong vertical lines and robust materiality make for a powerful first impression of the exterior. They have an important, more subtle, functional purpose too – when closed, warm and intimate interior spaces are created, yet when opened they allow in filtered natural light. This simple yet effective solution demonstrates sensitivity to context and an ability to be a strong, protective force as well as an operable element capable of opening up to light and the outdoors.
Key to the building’s visual impact, the strong vertical lines and robust materiality make for a powerful first impression of the exterior.
Inside, the spaces within the home are generous in every dimension, the soaring gabled ceiling emphasising the building’s volume. A sense of flow between internal and external spaces is created as the several structures that make up the home ‘slip past’ each other, leading to an arrangement in which rooms open up to outdoor courtyards, formed as places for gathering, cooking and fire. Within the house, enormous cast-in-situ concrete masses are a grounding force. The weighty presence of these concrete forms is substantial, and the pillars bracket each area to create zones for working, living, eating, entertaining and sleeping. This functional zoning is balanced through the harmonious use of materials and the unifying roof element to retain a sense of continuity.
Forest House is a project informed at every turn by the creative tensions between key aspects of the design. Large in form yet contextually sympathetic in materiality, spaciously internally but also cosy and protected, robust yet delicate, timeless but unmistakably contemporary – the design is all the richer for embracing the potential of these dualities to create a unified whole.