Dominic Bradbury, Journalist & Writer


'I have always wanted a house in the middle of the forest,' says architect Arthur Casas, 'a place where I can recharge my energy.' Casas has certainly achieved that within this enticing retreat in the Atlantic rain forest, around two hours drive from the city of Sao Paulo and a short distance from the sea.

This is a house with an extraordinary synergy with its seductive surroundings: a platform for viewing and appreciating nature. The double height central section of the building opens up completely, through a vast assembly of sliding glass walls, to create a powerful feeling of transparency that allows the landscape to feed into and pass through the heart of the house. The borders between indoor space and exterior terraces dissolve away, creating a serene and contemplative haven.

'I wanted a neutral space not only to balance the brilliance of the rain forest, but also because I wanted a place to switch off,' says Casas, who shares the house with his wife, Marai Valente, and their young daughter. 'We live a simpler life here. There's a balance between the generosity of the living spaces and the surroundings that gives this sense of meditative calm and intimacy.'

The design and construction of the house pay absolute respect to the beauty of the natural context. Casas was careful not to remove any trees on site, allowing the dense greenery of the forest to form the verdant backdrop to the building. Interior and exterior finishes are tied together with one another and the surrounding forest by the use of Brazilian camaru: a strong native teak from sustainable sources, which can withstand the effects of the tropical heat.

The central living space gives way to terraces with built in provision for outdoor dining and relaxing, with easy access to the kitchen and utility spaces inside. The central section of the house is open plan, as well as eleven metres high, with a bridge spanning the void to connect the bedrooms on the upper level of the two distinct wings of the building. The visual impact of this bridge is softened by the use of glass balustrades, so that it does not interfere with the sense of transparency, while the stairway to one side of the central sitting room was also designed with the lightest of touches, made with cantilevered timber steps emerging from a side wall.

On the lower level of the house, utlity spaces and the kitchen are positioned within one wing and a guest bedroom and a studio in the other. The desk in the studio is positioned in front of a window, looking out into the landscape, while a large glass side door allows ready access to the terrace.

Exterior terraces become natural extensions of the internal living space, with elements such as built in furniture, pool, outdoor shower and integrated Japanese style barbecue next to the outside dining table. 'Every element is designed to embrace the surroundings,' says Casas.

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