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Residences @ Rainforest

An elegant, humble and intelligent project, this timber home showcases environmental stewardship, sensitivity to local culture and a keen desire to inhabit its context without dominating it.

The project was commissioned by a sustainable forestry company as a home for the company manager, his family and visitors and is located deep in the Borneo jungle. Situated towards the top of a steep slope, the structure is elevated on stilts and arranged in two symmetrical halves divided by a central corridor. Bedrooms are recessed while living areas face onto a balcony which overlooks the dense surrounding vegetation. 

“The brief was developed during the course of several visits which included learning about the company’s operations, the people who would be housed, materials and craft available locally and the traditions of the place” comments Carol Marra of Marra + Yeh architects, “we were given a lot of leeway by the client not only to design the building but to advise him as to how the building could match up with the overarching goals of the company in terms of sustainability.”

Therefore the logical choice for building materials was locally sourced timber, which was harvested, sawn and milled on site. This choice also highlighted the strength, versatility and beauty of the timbers while allowing for durability, ease of maintenance and reparability. 

The building further enjoys a wealth of sustainable features, as Marra explains it is “zero-energy and autonomous, with solar electricity, biogas units and rainwater collection, and passively environmental – large overhangs and verandahs protect the inner areas from heat gain, daylight is indirectly bounced into the interiors, constant ventilation is ensured via sitting atop the ridge and a screened clearstory. Despite the tropical latitude the indoor temperature peaks at 26C at high noon, a full 8-10 degrees lower than the outdoor environment”.

Aesthetically the home reflects the vernacular of the local ‘longhouse’ and celebrates the inherent beauty of the construction materials by leaving them undisguised. The highlight, as Marra points out, is the verandah and the verdant panorama it accesses: “everyone who visits the building, whether for the first time or the tenth, goes straight to the verandah and sits facing the landscape.”

A final noteworthy point is that the project was realised at the relatively low cost of less than $185 per square meter.  



Photography: Brett Boardman


Marra + Yeh


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