by Pooja Suresh HollannavarSep 11, 2023
Florian Busch Architects has completed House in the Forest, a low slung, private residence that branches out within a three hectare patch in a faraway forest in Rankoshi, Hokkaido, Japan. Informed by a timber frame resting on a slightly raised reinforced concrete slab, House in the Forest is designed for a large family, who wanted a home of solitude, where they can be together and develop a dialogue with the somber, leafy Japanese jungle. The Tokyo-based architecture and urban design firm reveals that the project is imagined not just as a dwelling, but as an expanse that sits with and within the forest.
The silence of the woodland is a complete and welcome contrast from the vacation bustle of Niseko’s ski slopes situated in close proximity to the gently contoured site. “Enchanted by the beauty of the region but disturbed by this relentlessly encroaching pseudo-suburbia, the owners sought to escape in the forest’s solitude,” says Florian Busch, founder and owner, Florian Busch Architects.
The almost square site with its 160 m long edges is peppered with towering pine trees, stones and leafy green flora. A mound prevents anyone from viewing the location on immediate approach; on inching closer vis-à-vis a small rural road and climbing this mound, one is welcomed to a spot with a line of trees surrounding it. A gentle slope descends from here toward the south, reaching a clearing at the site’s western boundary.
According to Florian Busch Architects, traversing between the tree trunks evokes curiosity, and instills a sense of naturalness and of calm, being so close to unfiltered nature. “We are probing the surroundings. Every subtle movement changes the depth of our perception. The clearing that we have discovered is the site’s only place where the distance turns the trees into an abstract background,” the team shares.
The firm decided to design a humble form that meanders between the trees and the edge of the clearing, instead of placing a flashy geometric volume right in the middle of it, resulting in a simple yet dynamic architecture, with privacy when needed and clear, scenic views of the outdoors.
The residential architecture spans 230 sqm of ground floor area, and branches out horizontally in 10 low sitting volumes, with each extreme end cut open. The entrance is approached via a wooden staircase that rises and meets a tiny deck on the base concrete slab. Square windows cut into the ribbed timber façade, while bare white surfaces, stone grey concrete floors and wooden accents dominate the unembellished interior design.
Moving through the quiet retreat is akin to moving through the forest, with altering views of the latter at every turn and step. “As our views keep changing from far to near, the forest is both distant background and tactile environment,” explains Busch. Come night time, the right-angled openings throw a portion of the lighted interiors outside, standing still and gently illuminated in the still darkness. The simple interior with minimal to no furniture is thoughtfully stitched together into a spatially cohesive scene, as calming and centered as the woods it sits upon.
As one walks to the end of each branch, the closer they get to the forest, only separated by huge glass partitions. Each protruding extreme is defined by a large glass cutout, with a timber frame and a timber bench on the floor, offering a panoramic view of the wilderness outside, depicting the birth and decay of nature, of our smallness within it.
“The focus and scale of the windows intensifies the surroundings for the ones viewing it from the inside. We are sitting in the forest,” mentions Busch. The central spine of the house zigzags and shifts, giving multifaceted frames of the residential design, never revealing itself in its entirety. This weaving passage hosts a cosy fireplace, a kitchen and a lounge, while the 10 branching volumes include bedrooms with attached bathrooms, dining and other living spaces, and one of them opens out into a terrace.
“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,” comments Busch.
Name: House in the Forest
Location: Rankoshi, Hokkaido, Japan
Ground Floor Area: 230 sqm
Year of completion: 2020
Architect: Florian Busch Architects
Design team: Florian Busch, Sachiko Miyazaki, Mayo Shigemura, Luca Marulli, Tenesha Caton, Max Duval
Structural Engineering: OAK (Masato Araya, Takayuki Fujimoto)
Contractor: Wakisaka Corporation