Forest House Inspires its Architect

This New Zealand home in glass and aluminium blends into its unusual natural setting.
21 March, 2017
A striking home hidden in the woods of New Zealand shows off the architectural skill of its owner – and the elegance of the aluminium used in its construction.
Chris Tate, an award-winning architect in Auckland, designed the Forest House as a retreat for himself. Essentially, he built the getaway in the Titirangi bush as a glass box that would connect without interruption to the deep foliage that surrounded it. Forest House was his first project, and it ultimately defined his career.

"I'm not driven by design fads," Tate said in a recent media interview. "Jumping on a design bandwagon can be so temporary. I believe architecture should be timeless, so it will look just as good in another 10 years, and 10 years after that. A house should last a lifetime without needing many changes."
It may not be to everyone's taste, but Tate's love of the modern design defined his aesthetic. It's visible in the clean lines and black-and-white scheme of the house, which is built into a steep slope and is supported by 16 aluminium beams that function as stilts.

The 92 square meter, single story home is made of glass walls that extend beyond a wooden deck into the air, giving it nearly a treehouse feel. All of the cladding is done in black-stained timber, with the black aluminium columns appearing almost as natural as the thick vegetation that surrounds them, and the aluminium doors and windows framed in black around the glass panels.
In contrast, the interior of the home – apart from the structural elements in black – is done in white, including the painted floors. The unobtrusive sliding glass door of the main living space opens to grade level, with a forest pathway bordered by Puriri trees, ferns and other native plantings leading to it. At the other end of the path is a steep set of stairs that reaches up from the ravine to street level.

From the entrance pathway, the narrow, rectangular house then extends away from the earth, resting on the aluminium columns as it stretched into the woods. At the far northern end, it returns almost to ground level, having spanned the small valley beneath it as if it were a bridge.
Image: Archipro
Inside, the layout might also have fit in a shipping container, with each room – bedroom, bath, study, kitchen, and open living and dining spaces, in that order – aligned in a long row. Their décor, including the verdant green of one room that blends with the forest but makes a striking departure from the overall monochromatic scheme, is intentionally minimalist.

Tate, mindful of the environmental impact, did no excavation in the course of construction and worked in harmony with the existing land. There were some trees that had to be cut down, but the architect left the forest-floor vegetation protected beneath the extending sections of the home and aimed for a low environmental impact that also became a hallmark of his work.
The Tent House. Image: Concrete Playground
The similar themes are visible in Fire Pit, which replicates the black aluminium framing and glass walls in a wooded but less remoted location. They are also notable in one of Tate's far more recent creations, the Tent House on Waiheke Island, a striking A-frame cabin that narrows back like a tent and is surrounded by dense native plantings.
Banner image: Divisare