Family get-togethers can be joyous occasions, but there comes a time when just about everyone present wishes they could retreat to a quiet place for a little alone time. Unfortunately, most vacation homes simply aren’t set up for that. They’re designed for all the togetherness you can handle, like it or not, and that often includes shared bedrooms and open loft sleeping spaces.
In Rankoshi, Japan, Tokyo-based architecture firm Florian Busch Architects has created a retreat that balances individual privacy with the companionship of large gatherings, giving everyone a chance to enjoy the peaceful seclusion of the forest. Designed to mimic the shape of a branch, “House in the Forest” acknowledges that solitude is good for the soul, especially when set within a beautiful natural environment.
Feeling “disturbed” by the encroachment of suburbia driven by the nearby ski slopes of Niseko, the clients, a large family, wanted a place where they could enjoy a little peace and quiet. “Consequentially, the brief is not for a house but for a time in and with the forest,” say the architects. The roughly seven-acre property is almost completely wooded, cleared only in a narrow area to accommodate the new timber-framed flat-roof structure.
Many vacation homes would prioritize giving the best views to a common space. “House in the Forest” does exactly the opposite. Ten “branches” are capped on each end by a glass wall, each one pointed in a different direction. No window gazes directly on another. Some contain social areas like the kitchen and living room, but many are meant to be private spaces where you can spend time alone or in small groups. The interior design is strikingly, meditatively minimalist, and the exterior wooden cladding harmonizes with the natural setting. The house is also lifted off the ground slightly, giving it a light footprint and allowing firewood to be stored underneath.
Few family vacations give people the chance to be “alone, together,” but “House in the Forest” makes a strong argument for creating more of these contemplative getaways.
“Moving through the house is moving through the forest,” say the architects. “As our views keep changing from far to near, the forest is both distant background and tactile environment. The end of each branch is cut open. The closer we move to the extremes (the end of the branches), the more we are drawn into the forest. While the protection of the inside separates us physically from the experience of the forest, the focus and scale of the windows to the forest intensifies it. We are sitting in the forest. In the house’s central spine, this focus of selection is replaced by a multi-faceted instantaneity. As a multitude of views of the forest around us are filling the space, the original experience inside the forest is always present.”
“The House in the Forest is not about a fixed form but an ever-changing dialogue with the forest. The eventually built is merely the result in a process of probing and responding to the surroundings to create a place where the family can be both together and by themselves, where they can become part of the forest.”