House in the Forest begins with close to three hectares of nearly untouched pristine forest located in Rankoshi, Japan. Only a short distance from Niseko’s ski slopes, the silence here is the antithesis of the vacation bustle that has turned several of the renown ski area’s towns into a haphazard sprawl of increasingly suburbia.
The site is an almost perfect square with 160-metre-long edges, filled with tall pine trees. As we approach, a mound prevents any views into the site: The only access, a small rural road running along the northern boundary which was lowered many years ago. Moving between the trees evokes curiosity. Every subtle movement changes the depth of perception. The clearing for the house is the site’s only place where the distance turns the trees into an abstract background. Yet instead of placing the building in the middle of the clearing (which would result in 360 degrees of background), Florian Busch Architects chose to keep meandering between the trees at the edge to the clearing, protected by the trees around us.
The building branches out horizontally. Moving through the house is moving through the forest. As 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 multitude of views of the forest.