This Forest Complex Pays Writers to Stay Inside Floating Homes
Nowadays, it seems like everybody knows someone who works remotely out of the local coffee shops. You might even be one of those people. An indoor environment with a slight background buzz and heavy foot traffic is enough to keep some people concentrated on their work, but there are others who find working in these places to be almost impossible. If you fall into the latter group, don’t worry. After all, some of us need silence to work, while others need to isolate themselves from as many other humans as possible.
How far would you go to get away from the daily distractions to your work? How about a secluded landscape in Switzerland with a stunning view of Lake Geneva and the Alps?
Since 2013, the Jan Michalski Foundation in Montricher, just northwest of Lausanne, has been a place that fosters the creation of new literary works and the overall increase of literacy all around the world. Writers and artists go there to work and do research, and the general public visits to attend cultural events and exhibitions. Yes, the foundation occupies a unique structure that would be uncommon in any major city in the world, let alone the Swiss countryside. It is a complex that barely touches the ground, with most of its structures hanging from a concrete canopy with an organic form and lattice-like shapes. The canopy itself stands on pilotis meant to represent the trees of the surrounding forest.
The idea for this literary sanctuary came from Vera and Jan Michalski, who originally bought it from the Saint Joseph’s Catholic parish in Lausanne. For that reason, the couple made a point to have the architecture of the complex pay homage to the site’s religious history. Today, the foundation’s spiritual feel is immediately apparent, with its buildings elevated above the earth like graceful celestial bodies. Maybe not that high, of course, but the intention is clear nonetheless.
Every building on the site is meant to resemble a treehouse, housing both foundation staff and the writers-in-residence, who themselves can live there with their families for anytime between two weeks and six months. “Suspended Forest” is just one of those perched cabins, held in place by about a dozen steel ties. Only its outdoor stairs come close to touching the ground, and even then, just barely. Completed in 2018 by Kengo Kuma & Associates, this 1,292-square-foot home, like all the others in this retreat, only uses materials that are native to the site.
From the main road, thecabin welcomes the viewer with a tilted face, an opening to the ever-changing world within its walls, and a gaping window to the outside. The exterior is a contorted box dressed in hand-cut untreated oak and larch shingles applied in a checkered pattern, which the architects hope will form a patina in the future. Beneath these shingles are white steel plates for waterproofing. The interior wall and ceiling surfaces are covered in larch plywood sheets and triangular in form, framing the walls in a way that creates several memorable interiors. Irregularly shaped skylights permit light to enter the house along its length, with large floor-to-ceiling lights brightening things up even more.
So what to do you think? Ready to get started on that novel of yours?