Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Started January 2011; opened May 2012
To delicately integrate a design for a place in the woods on a heavily wooded hilltop.
Banquet and social space
- To create a unique (jewel) that supports creativity, learning, dining, and social activities
- To create a space that is playful, fun (an oasis), and theatrical (inspiring) on the hilltop
- To create a sustainable environment that perpetuates the immersive experience within the woods and celebrates the lush, rich (natural) setting
We discovered a natural clearing on the hilltop to site the project. The building is oriented to include a one-of-a-kind view to the city and immersion into the woodlands. A long sloping roof plane, supported by a naturally warm wood structure, hovers over the entry and interior environment. The experience grows toward the view, both in volume and transparency. Rain is collected along the gentle slope and creates a "waterfall" at the entry flowing into a rain garden. This presents a soothing sound and playful movement.
A dynamically formed random wood planked concrete wall visually pulls your eye toward the main entry. This rough wall contrasts the smooth surface of the wood siding, imparting sensory diversity. The concrete continues through the interior, forming a backdrop the natural views outward. Furthering the diversity is a bio burning stainless steel fireplace integrated in the concrete.
Just as the rusticated wall blurs the line between interior and exterior, the polished concrete floor stretches past the envelope to create outdoor places, perpetuating an immersive experience within the woods. The tree house effect can be felt in the simplicity of the plan and wood structure. It is open and flexible offering multiple uses such as learning, brainstorming, dining, weddings, and banquets, both inside and out. The open plan becomes animated by the activity of nature framed by the volume and structure. A large sloping glass facade is a delicate scrim separating inside activities from the woodlands. The glass is sloped to elminate glare for maximum transparency and to reduce the occurence of bird strikes. The mullions are random to reflect the organic nature of the woods continuing the delicate balance between inside and out. The platform past the glass cantilevers over the hillside, thrusting the viewer into the woods and introducing a panoramic view that is memorable and unique. The roof floats above, protecting the space so activities can exist in all weather patterns.
The mechanical system is integrated into the sandwich of the exterior wall and concrete floor. The ceiling structure is free of ductwork, keeping the volume intact and providing a canvas for lighting playfully located to reflect the starts. The polished concrete floor reflects the lights and the activity of the woods.
"In the woods is perpetual youth." - Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Nature"