Coinciding with our earlier post announcing the Cairns Botanic Gardens Visitors Centre as recipient of the 2012 Eddie Oribin Award for Building of the Year, the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) has awarded this rainforest tree house as the 2012 House of the Year. Suspended above the forest floor on a secluded and private lot on the flanks of Mt Whitfield in Cairns, mmp Architects strived to create a low maintenance home that embodies a relaxed ambience, structural honesty, plentiful natural light and airflow, and generous reference to the site and the forest.
Continue after the break for more.
The building ‘floats’ on a galvanized steel support structure, which carries through from the ground to the roof ensuring minimum site disturbance, low maintenance and structural integrity. Retention of most of the existing forest, combined with subdued colors has resulted in a building which is virtually invisible from the city below. However, views of the city exist through ‘windows’ in the forest.
Three pavilions separated by breezeways form the single level of the home suspended above the natural slope. The central living pavilion opens to the forest outlook and through a full glass wall, and also connects seamlessly to the outdoor living breezeway. Outdoor dining overlooks the slightly lower lounge ‘treehouse’ which rests under a large canopy roof and is open on all sides. The main bedroom and ensuite pavilion is accessed across this breezeway and features framed views of the adjoining rock face which becomes a wet season cascade.
Guest bedrooms and shared ablution facilities comprise the west pavilion which is separated from the living area by the entry breezeway and laundry/drying area.
Easy care and low maintenance is achieved with a flat roof for easy access to the pv installation, solar hot water, membrane canopy and gutters. Also, Colorbond steel external cladding, aluminum windows and galvanized exposed structure all reduce maintenance demand.
Sustainability is enhanced with long term low maintenance materials, low voc paints, sustainably harvested or plantation grown timber, locally sourced natural stone retaining walls and a pv installation which provides most power requirements.
Suspended above the forest floor, living in this home is akin to life on a roofed platform within the rainforest canopy. A relaxed and easy ambience contributes to a harmonious relationship between the house and its occupants.
The jury noted, “A house which cleverly engages its rainforest shroud from every room and interstitial space. Its unassuming exterior belies a sequence of varied scaled interior spaces that embody a relaxed tropical lifestyle in all possible weather conditions.”