Shelter is located in the state of Sabah, in a remote inland location five hours drive from Kota Kinabalu. The project was commissioned by a private forestry company that controls 100,000 hectares of forest for a period of 99-years under a system of sustainable reforestation; obligations include replanting on a ratio of 30:1. Shelter provides accommodation for the Company’s manager and his family and for a string of visitors. The house is thus laid out as two mirrored halves joined by an entry ‘dog run’ and a long verandah overlooking the wildscape.
The design has been influenced by the vernacular longhouses of the area with their frugal timber constructions and also by Thoreau’s Walden Pond with its message of simple living and self sufficiency. These considerations were prosaic as much as they were poetic – the house is low cost, autonomous (with solar electricity, biogas units and rainwater collection) and passively environmental – Despite the tropical latitude the indoor temperature peaks at 26C at high noon, a full 8-10 degrees lower than the outdoor environment.
Locally harvested and milled timber is the main building material, constrained to just two small section sizes, 100×50 and 50×50, addressing the present reality of scarce resources, increasing the yield of usable timber per tree as well as logistical matters such as manual handling of all building materials. Locally made plywood is used as diaphragm for walls and floors, serving also as the module standard. As part of the project the architects planted one hundred wildings of endemic tropical hardwood species.
Shelter is on one level the house of a family and its guests, living side by side and sharing the long verandah, where conversation is the only form of entertainment. On another level it is a symbol of craft, care and environmental stewardship.