Modular glass forest house in New Zealand


Architect Chris Tate’s Forest House is a modular glass structure perched in the branches of the densely forested hills of the Auckland suburb of Titirangi in New Zealand. This is a residence that Tate uses himself as a weekend getaway retreat which has very little site impact.

The glass home is tucked away in a deep ravine, which stands out with its flat black roof punctuated by four glass skylights with a slender set of wooden stairs snaking down next to it. The staircase leads to a small outcrop of decking in front of the home’s entryway. From the entrance, the house can be seen for what it is, a glass box perched amidst the bush with nothing around it except for massive trees.

The concept of the design was to focus more on the environment than on the house. This is particularly emphasized by the striking Puriri tree that angles out from the bank and curves around the side of the house. The house has been designed around the curve of the trunk, using it as a main focal point. Nothing has been disturbed in this environment, there are no concrete foundations or retaining walls, and it feels more like a camping retreat, where Tate has deliberately not installed a TV, dishwasher or microwave.

The steep site was a challenge for the builders, yet no excavating was necessary on the sight, not even leveling. All the trees were enclosed in scaffolding to protect them and then 16 poles were entrenched into the earth, with the house constructed upon them. The home was designed with a minimalist approach, with no hidden storage spaces in the living area, but the study, bedroom, and bathroom provide the perfect amount of comfortable living for two.

The bedroom area is at the opposite end of the house up against the bank. Along this wall is a floor to ceiling curtain that conceals open shelving and wardrobes. Tate’s home is dominated by a black and white color palette and many elements inside the home have a botanical theme, such as the upholstery.


From the street high above it, the house is an intriguing black shape located low on the forest floor, at the bottom of a long staircase.



The light green study was designed to be a perch amid the foliage.



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Tate designed the bedroom as a foil to the rest of the house, deliberately keeping the textures much softer and more luxurious, intending it to be a retreat from the openness of the living spaces.


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Photos: Patrick Reynolds / Styling: Alex McLeo

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Eric Nor
1 year ago

What is meant by “All the trees were enclosed in scaffolding to protect them and then 16 poles were entrenched into the earth, with the house constructed upon them.” ? I’m interested in building something like this in a way that embraces the natural feel of a landscape and does not harm the trees. The location includes several massive Kauri and I’m loathe to damage them.