Location: Forest Hills, Tala | by Architecture BRIO
Forest Hills is a quiet picturesque retreat tucked away amidst dense foliage and trees. The property perches high on top of a mountain overlooking miles and miles of forest and an estuary in the distance.
On the North West part of Forest Hills, an escarpment facing both the sea and the estuary, is the most beautiful site at Tala. Twenty-one centuries ago, Buddhist monks chose to build their homes right at this spot. They excavated the basalt rock at the foot of the mountain perfectly hidden. Yet the location unmistakably meditates on the scenic view.
Sequence of Spaces
Here at the ridge of the mountain top, eight underground “cave homes” will be carved into the mountain. These underground dwellings focus like telescopes on the surrounding nature and views. A staircase gently slopes, as an earth block sculpture, from the plateau in the direction of the homes beneath. At the end of the steps, one experiences what ”cavers” call the “squeeze’’- a narrowing of the passage. However, behind the front door, the vaulted dining room and pantry expand as they step down to the bedroom. There is a great sense of comfort and tranquillity that one experiences in underground spaces. The calm light and echoing sonic quality in this womb-like space relax the senses.
The bedroom overlooks the external lounge and plunge pool. Each level completely opens to the generous window. It frames the dense forest vegetation in the foreground and the vast distant view beyond. Thick parallel walls that support the vaults define the layout of the homes. However, a series of interconnected adjoining rooms and terraces create axial transparency across the plan.
The 5-meter-high vaulted rooms are built out of earth-stabilised blocks sourced from the site itself. This structure is able to withstand the massive loads of the earth above, with minimal means. It reduces the amount of reinforced concrete by 75%. Because the embodied energy of the structures is reduced, the construction is more environmentally friendly. Additionally, the underground design keeps the spaces naturally comfortable by using geothermal cooling.