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I've been picked up from airports in taxis before,
but never, never had to go to a jetty to be picked up by a boat!
'He's Piers Taylor, an award-winning architect.'
This building is so tactile
and just rich, materially.
'And she's Caroline Quentin,
'acclaimed actress and passionate property developer.'
Oh, I've been expecting you, Mr Bond!
'We've been given the keys
'to some of the most incredible houses in the world...'
It's chock full of surprises, isn't it?
'..to discover the design, innovation,
'passion and endurance needed
'to transform architectural vision into an extraordinary home.'
If this was Hollywood,
I'd be snogging you now.
'Together, we'll be travelling the globe.'
Oh, look down there!
-I would, but I'm trying not to kill us.
-No, you look ahead.
'Meeting the architects and owners
'who have taken on the challenge of building unconventional homes
'in demanding locations.'
Just another day on the wing of a 747.
'Whether it's navigating the logistics of constructing a house
'on top of a remote mountain...'
Why would you build a house where you can only get there by cable car?
'..negotiating the ancient trees of a fragile forest...'
You never see a building this close to the trees.
I mean that's six inches away.
'..having a sea view
'whilst perched on the edge of a dramatic coastal shoreline...'
I'd love to know how you actually built this
on what appears to be a sort of vertical cliff face.
'..or excavating the earth to build a home deep underground...'
There is always a moment where you feel fear.
nature is never to come back the same way.
Since earliest times, humans have had a close affinity
with the tranquillity and isolation of the forest.
The joys of living so close to nature
is why I chose to build my own family home in the woods.
But building in this natural habitat can be fraught
with environmental obstacles and technical challenges.
We built the road three times, it kept washing away.
It was a long three years.
Piers and I will be travelling from the forests
of the Catskill Mountains of America...
Usually, if we see this, it's in a building that has cost £150 million.
It's been made like a piece of jewellery.
..to the ancient woodlands of Europe and New Zealand.
Discovering what it takes to design, build and live
in some of the world's most extraordinary forest homes.
It's a tight rope you walk, it can go spectacularly wrong.
What a beautiful morning!
The first stop on our architectural adventure
takes us an hour's drive out of Madrid to an ancient pine forest
on the outskirts of the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial.
Look at the dappled light, it is beautiful.
-Is it up here somewhere? Are we nearly there?
-I think it is.
We're heading to an unconventional four-bedroom home,
where one architect took on the seemingly impossible challenge
of building a house which would weave right amongst the trees
in the forest, without damaging them.
-Most people clear the trees from a site before they build.
But this guy kept the trees,
allowing the house to weave among them.
-So is that why the design's so extreme?
Because they've had to take the trees into account?
It was not just a crazy idea about doing some weird shape.
It was actually about wanting to preserve the qualities of the trees
that existed on the site.
-Stop, stop, stop, stop! I think that's it.
-I think it is.
It could only be it, couldn't it?
Check out the fence.
It's quite industrial.
It looks a little bit like Ford open prison in Sussex.
Have you got the buzzer to get us in?
Oh, er, yes, I have somewhere. Here.
-I'm pressing everything. Oh, yes!
-Oh, there we are.
I love it when that happens!
Richard, the owner of this house,
is a publisher and editor of an architectural magazine,
and wanted his own home to challenge the conventional.
This is incredible, seeing that so close.
It's almost touching, but not quite.
I mean, it's beautiful, looking up there.
I suspect when the wind blows,
this will almost touch the building.
It must do.
And it'll be calculated just so it doesn't quite touch.
And underneath here, of course,
there'll be foundations that go down beneath the tree roots.
If you were here and you weren't careful,
you'd kill a lot of the very thing you were trying to use. You'd kill the trees.
Yeah, that's the danger. And, of course, then you'd end up
with a house that was in a barren piece of land with no trees.
Casa Levene is a major piece of angular engineering.
The floor plan of this structure
cleverly takes the shape from voids left between the trees.
Inside, individual zones have been designed like branches,
each separately coloured to create a different atmosphere.
Outside, the building has been entirely clad in basalt,
a type of dark volcanic rock, to contrast the colourful interior
and reflect the surrounding trees.
I really like buildings that have the same material on the roof
as on the walls.
-Is it slippy?
-No, it is fine.
My experience of basalt is limited.
Oh, this is cool.
But what a landscape. I mean this is brilliant, this landscape.
-Look at the trees, they're literally poking out of there.
WHISPERS: It's a bit like...being in a nest.
-We're cocooned, aren't we?
-I like it, I really like it.
There is a real respect for nature that's creeping back into
architecture in the last 20 years or so.
And, historically, we didn't really care about nature,
we just battered nature into submission.
But here they've looked at the site,
they've kept almost all the trees,
and then they've just looked at where you can build
and then they've filled in the gaps.
And what, of course, we've ended up with is a building
that has come out of the shape of the site
rather than an architect tradition.
I like that. I find that quite exciting.
Externally, the form of this building shows a complete empathy
with the forest.
But on the inside, the architect has had the freedom
to let his imagination run wild.
'The use of bold colours and industrial materials
'create a vibrant atmosphere,
'providing an extraordinary contrast to the serene woodland outside.'
Look at the shadows on the floor. I mean, that's beautiful.
It's a hell of a colour, actually,
and it's a brave choice, but I really like it.
'Colour theory has been used to create two distinct atmospheres.
'Lively oranges and reds to lift your mood,
'and blues and greens to relax and focus.'
But I also like this transparent acrylic,
and I love the way the toys become quite decorative.
-This is quite quirky, isn't it?
I'm not quite sure - jury's out for me on this,
what is it? A poly or a plastic?
-This is an acrylic. It's a type of plastic, but it's acrylic.
I love the low tech nature of it.
It's pretty cheap and quite easy to fix.
And this metal here, I mean, that...
stainless steel that wraps around is really beautiful.
This riot of material and colour, I think is really refreshing.
And then into this beautiful blue space,
and the flash of the lime green Perspex here,
it's quite exciting, this use of colour, isn't it?
Every element of this house pushes the boundaries
of a domestic dwelling.
Even the kitchen is wrapped in industrial stainless steel.
Can I ask you something?
Where do you stand on a stainless steel kitchen?
Don't say on the surface!
Do you like them or, do you not like them?
I think they're great. They're really practical.
I love things that can be the same colour all the way around.
Some people would say it's a little bit too like a hospital.
It means that the kitchen is part of the architecture,
it isn't something that's just been stuck in the corner
and it makes it less kitchen-like.
What do you mean?
Because most of us, our kitchens, well, they are by their very nature, kitcheny!
If it was made out of something and there was just a standard set of units in the corner,
-it would be a bit of a let down.
-Is your kitchen kitcheny?
It doesn't have conventional units.
It just has a big island that everyone cooks at.
If a man's going to have an island,
I'm surprised it's you, because it's very suburban, an island.
So social. It's so social!
Don't you quote that suburban thing at me.
It's sociable. Listen, I'm going to go and make you something!
Oh, hello, Caroline, I can't see you any more, it's really antisocial!
I hate cooking looking at a suburban bit of stainless steel.
What I want to do is be in the view and talk to people,
and actually experience the space.
I think kitchens are about the space and the poetry of cooking.
They're not about the units.
If it were me, my life would be all about the birds here.
I would have a pair of binoculars permanently there.
I'd spend my whole life just watching nature.
And I'd spend my whole time marvelling at the spatial sequence,
how wonderful it is,
and just basking in the sheer delight of it all.
Oh, he can't help it.
Chop off his head, it says "architect" right the way through the middle!
This unusual house began with a very unusual brief
for architect Eduardo Arroyo.
Tell me how it came about, this project?
So, one day, the client, Richard,
arrives in the office and says, "I want a house to change my life."
-That's pretty powerful, isn't it? A pretty powerful statement.
Scary at the same time.
And when you came here, what did you think of the site initially?
It was quite shocking, because it was completely packed with trees.
Most of them are 100, 200 years old.
So my first response was, "It's impossible to build anything here."
But Eduardo and his team weren't going to be defeated
by the plot of land, and embraced the challenge of building a home
in what most architects would consider an unworkable location.
Show me some early sketches that show the evolution of the house,
I'm really interested in that.
One of my favourites
was the one we did the first day we were in the site.
We did a very strict and precise work of measuring all the trees,
the distances, the thickness of the trees.
And once we had that very precise technical plan,
to activate a very rough and intuitive ideas
of how to use this forest.
How did that feel as the form was beginning to emerge?
The forest was guiding us.
It was guiding us, how the forest let ourselves occupy it.
To me it is very exciting to build things
that haven't been built before.
Coming back to this house, how do you feel walking around it?
I normally don't like to come back to my buildings.
I think once you have finished a work, then I release myself.
So, it feels very good to see that, even if there are some changes,
and life has developed inside, absorbing what has happened inside,
not getting destroyed by it,
which means that the building is very strong.
This house is all about the trees,
and what that means is when Eduardo first came here,
what he did was work out exactly where the trees were
and what it enabled Eduardo to do
was to strike a line around the buildable volume
and there, very naturally,
can you see the shape of this house
which sits beautifully in the space left over by the trees?
With that, what Eduardo was then left with
was the problem of how to build next to a tree
and this house is built right up to the trees.
Typically you need to be way outside the tree canopy,
because that's where the roots are,
and often, you know, if you have a tree trunk, like that,
the tree roots spider out from that,
to about the same distance as the canopy spreads.
What Eduardo did was to work out that he could put these micropiles,
little piles down between the tree roots.
Typically what they do, they're rammed into the ground
or driven into the ground,
so what you have is a building built off these delicate fingers of steel
that go down between the roots.
Trees are really vulnerable to being disturbed.
And if you sever roots, trees will die.
So this is the only way you can build on a site like this.
Just as the forest has dictated the unusual shape of this house,
it's also heavily influenced the interior living spaces.
From here, I really feel like I'm floating in this canopy.
The sheer poetry of being in the trees
with all this light bouncing around
and all these brilliant surfaces reflecting that light -
that's really magical.
I think this is the perfect place to sit
because I can hear the wind rustling through the pines and the birdsong.
It's great the way this house doesn't have conventional rooms and conventional doors.
It just has spaces that you can use in beautiful and inventive ways.
And just if I really listen carefully,
I can just about hear Piers,
banging on about suburbia and conventional living,
and how dull it is to have sinks in the kitchen and beds in bedrooms!
Often people think that houses like this are difficult to live in,
difficult to really occupy in an informal way.
But this is a child's bedroom that is full of life.
And I love the way these pictures sit alongside something
that's really high architecture.
What's fantastic about this house, Caroline,
is that it's so poetic.
It's all about the experience of being in the trees,
in this extraordinary landscape.
Nature's been respected, the trees are exactly where they were,
and the house just flows around the trees.
It's wonderful for that.
But for my taste...
It's a little conventional!
The next leg of our forest journey
takes us to the United States of America.
We're heading two and a half hours north of New York
to the Catskill Mountains.
The owner and principle architect of our second forest house, Tom Gluck,
wanted a weekend home for his family to escape the bustle of busy city life.
It's spectacularly beautiful, isn't it? It's kind of dreamy.
-Spring in the woods.
-Spring in a deciduous forest.
-Oh, it doesn't get any better.
-So green. Lime green everywhere!
-Lovely. Young leaves.
It's quite romantic to live in among the trees, isn't it?
Tom's challenge was to come up with a design which would be large enough
for a three-bedroom family home,
but would lessen its impact on the surroundings
by minimising the footprint within this densely wooded plot.
I know it's the modern way,
and I know glass and steel can be absolutely wonderful and exciting,
but I want this to be a home.
I want it to be an incredibly poetic experience of being in the woods.
And a home?
Not so fussed.
Tom's towering vision was to build a stairway into the forest canopy,
using the most contemporary materials
to create a treehouse with a twist.
Oh! Hang on! Hang on!
That's not at all what I thought it was going to be!
That's amazing. It's green!
-It is green.
-But I wonder whether that's...
It is green, actually. Look at it! I mean, that is...
Oh, look, there's yellow. There's yellow, there's yellow.
It's got a yellow staircase.
-Right, I'm having a look at.
It's, it's, it's...
It's, God, it's not at all what I thought it was going to be like!
I like buildings that are intrigue-y.
And, actually, there's nothing worse than a pretty building
that gives you everything in one hit.
Well, this is not a pretty building, so you're all right there.
Well, I'm not so sure. I think it's really good-looking, actually.
It's really composed and quite pert.
Mindful to conserve this woodland,
Tom designed a house to fit on a small footprint
the size of a static caravan.
Instead of putting the three double bedrooms side by side,
he's stacked them on top of each other
and placed a large cantilevered living area
30 feet above the ground.
The living room is part supported by the stacked bedrooms underneath
and a slender V shaped column picks up the additional load,
allowing the building to teeter high into the canopy
without toppling over.
Do you know what it reminds me of, Piers?
It reminds me of A, a comprehensive school
and B, one of those fire towers
that they build for firemen to practise on.
It feels like a kid could have designed it.
-It's almost made out of Lego, isn't it?
And I don't know about your kids but if my kids built a tower,
it was always balanced precariously with the biggest bit at the top!
SHE LAUGHS Yeah!
With ambition to create a living space with views high above the forest canopy,
Tom has taken the layout of a conventional three-bedroom house
and turned it on its head.
Here they put the bedrooms at the bottom and the best bit,
all the living space, at the top,
which probably just peaks over those trees and gets the mountain view.
To blend into this densely wooded habitat,
Tower House was entirely clad in glass to reflect the forest,
making it almost invisible at times.
Oh, this is good.
-This is good, cos you get the mountain reflected in this.
And, actually, the colour makes sense here, doesn't it?
Yeah, because it disappears.
Here is a building that is defined by where it is.
It does mimic the landscape and trees.
-I quite like that, I think that's a good thing.
And remember that all of the buildings that we love in the UK
were all pretty radically modern buildings once,
that stood out like a sore thumb.
You know, I suspect that all of the manor houses, rectories, farmhouses,
barns that were built hundreds of years ago were quite stark,
alien things, a little bit like this.
Do you know, Piers, I'm starting to really quite like this tower.
It's like a princess's tower in the forest,
and I'm starting to really love it.
And here's something funny, look, see that?
There's a door there, and round here, there's a door here, the same,
so I love this sense that you don't quite know which is the front
and which is the back.
-OK, go on, then, you take that one.
-I'll take the high road.
-All right, then, and I'll take this...side.
Bit of time to myself. So important, I think.
It's like a proper home!
It's like a proper home! It's like people live here.
It's got stuff, and it's got places to put boots.
I like the yellows, like the sun hitting you. I think it's fantastic.
-Hi, Caroline, are you there?
-Oh, he's back! Look out.
-Here we are.
What do you think?
-I love it's informality.
You know, you come in, there's dirt on the floor and logs.
Really hadn't expected that, actually.
This yellow is great isn't it? The underside of this.
You're immediately, well if you're a kid, you want to run upstairs.
-You can hear their voices.
You can hear the thundering of their feet.
"I'm going to do that, now."
And you hear the thundering of their feet as they head up.
-Can I hear the thundering of your feet?
I'm going to go right to the top.
I'm just going to linger down here a bit longer.
-See you in a bit.
I love it that Caroline's so excited.
Because there's a kind of freedom this house is giving her.
It's a kind of frivolous house in some ways.
Because some buildings slow you down and are quite serious,
like churches and cathedrals,
but there's a real informality to this.
I also like that this is a bit untidy,
because it shows that the owners aren't precious
because the architecture speaks for itself.
Oh, follow me.
Oh, yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!
This is a proper house! This is a proper house!
And look at the views!
And on that side, you've got the most beautiful view of the forest.
Absolutely beautiful. It's breathtaking.
I could easily be a bird
so I could live here quite happily
with my kids and my husband,
just looking at that beautiful view.
Oh! It's just lovely.
This is the most extraordinary experience,
being up high and being able to see so far.
But, also, this is a beautiful space.
It's well structured. It's really informal.
It's really lived in.
But also this is really fun, too.
Just this little bit of...
Well, this glimpsed view up into the stairwell.
-It's lovely, isn't it?
-It's lovely, it's lovely.
And you can go...
-LOUDLY: "Supper's ready!"
"Off your iPad and Minecraft!"
-Come thundering up those stairs!
It's so brilliant that we are not talking about this
as an architectural structure, or even as a thing of beauty,
although I think it is a thing of beauty,
-we're talking about it as parents and how we live.
I love it that there's stuff on the floor, and kids' toys.
And it shows, in a way,
that architecture and home can really coexist.
The owner and the principle architect of Tower House
is from a famous family of American architects.
Tom Gluck has travelled from their New York office
to meet us in his family's woodland estate.
-Really good to meet you.
-Nice to meet you.
-Caroline. This is Piers.
-Hi, I'm Piers.
-Hi, great to meet you.
-We've been loving your house, Tom.
-Absolutely loving your house. It's like a playhouse.
-It's like a treehouse for grown up boys, isn't it?
-That's the way we think of it.
-Is that what you thought of when you first came up with it?
-Well, I'm not sure it's what we thought of when we first
came up with it, but it's the way we think of it now.
You've known this wood all your life?
We first came up here,
my parents brought me here when I was six months old.
-Does it feel like it's part of you, this ground?
We've been building and playing architecturally on the property
for 40 years.
This is the most recent addition.
We'd always known there was this plateau up here.
We suspected there might be views.
-But you didn't know?
-We didn't know for sure,
because it was heavily wooded,
-and you can look through this way and you can't see very far.
So we actually built a tower out of scaffolding,
to get up about 40 feet, tied off the trees,
and when we got up there and had a decent view,
we committed to this kind of upside-down treehouse
where all of the living space is on the top.
'I'm intrigued to hear there's a whole wealth of buildings
'hidden in these woods.
'Exploring some of Gluck's other work is a temptation I can't resist.'
So I'm going to leave you two to look at the house and I'm going look at your other ones.
-Sounds good. Enjoy it.
-See you later.
-Shall we look around?
-I don't know why I'm asking,
cos I sort of imagine that I live here already.
Yeah, no, that's great. What's for lunch?!
We're going now to see something called the Scholar's House,
that is Tom's mother's office.
Actually, there are quite a lot of links between this little cabin
and Tower House.
Beautiful coming up.
I really like this panorama that you get of the tree canopy.
And of course so many parallels up here
between this and the Tower House.
The same round columns pulled away from the corners
so you get very open corners of just glass meeting glass
and also of course,
the low sills and all around, there's built in storage.
I think in many ways this feels a bit of a baby brother
to the Tower House.
This is just superb, Tom.
-I mean, you must never get used to that.
-That's the big reveal.
It really is, isn't it?
We live full-time in Manhattan.
We have this roughly two-hour drive up from the city
and you kind of leave all the stress
of the crazy city lives that we live.
And as you come, I come up the stair, I come up to this space.
You really kind of feel... Feel the stress drop away.
It's very rejuvenating.
So when you first started thinking about putting the building together,
tell me how it works? Do you draw?
Do you get blocks? How does it go, that process?
So we did a lot of initial work in model, in physical models.
My oldest child, our son, was just born.
I spent of lot the time designing the house with the baby on my lap
while my wife would get some much-needed sleep.
It was literally block, two blue foam blocks
and it was about the composition of the elements
and the small footprint,
so it has a small impact on the forest floor.
Then once we knew we wanted to get up high and see the view,
then it was a question of, how do we pull this off?
And so one way of thinking about this house is
if you have a typical hallway with bedrooms that run off of it,
we take this thing and we tilt it up, so instead of the hallway
you have the yellow stairs,
and then we have three bedrooms that help get the living room,
which is on the top floor here,
up high enough so that then you can really experience the big view.
Was there ever a time when you thought,
"I don't know quite what I've built here?"
So before we put the glass on, the side of the house is massive.
I mean, it is 40 feet tall, it's a massive surface.
And when it was just covered in its waterproofing,
it really was not invisible.
But once the glass goes on it, and it just reflects,
it's like camouflage, cos it reflects what's around it.
And how close are you to what your initial dream was for this property?
We, I have to say, we love it.
One of the things we enjoy the most,
is because we're always having people up,
is having people who aren't used to being in capital A architecture.
And they come up with their kids and they don't even know what
architecture is, but their response is universally the same,
which is, it's so easily understandable,
and so successful in the way it makes you feel when you're here.
So in fact, you've kind of achieved more than you ever expected to
-with the build?
-Yep. Yep. In this case.
It's not always the case!
I'm sure it isn't!
-There you are!
-You great big butch architect!
While you've been wafting around a big beautiful house,
I've been chopping wood.
So, do you think this is a good house, Piers?
I like this house more and more.
I mean looking at it now in this evening light,
it really is mesmeric, isn't it?
It is. Because when I first saw it,
I thought this is a sort of big glass thing,
where there should be wood, but actually it works really well.
I think nature is so beautiful and in a way, this stuff,
this wood is so perfect,
to try to build a building out of this doesn't always make sense,
but this is subtle, and delicate, and appropriate.
And it's really easy to be clumsy in this landscape,
but this building isn't.
The next stop on our forest adventure
takes us across the Hudson River and to the hamlet of Shokan,
deep in the heart of the Catskill Park.
This area of upstate New York is a woodland playground
for the rich and famous.
Movie stars and musicians have all lived here.
It's quite a famous place, actually, in cultural history.
I think Hendrix and Bowie both were drawn to the Shokan area.
We're heading to a hi-tech weekend forest home,
owned and designed by New York architect Jay Bargmann.
Jay's day job is for an acclaimed international firm
responsible for designing iconic buildings -
like the skyscraper in London now known as the Walkie Talkie.
This is the first house Jay has designed for himself.
But rather than building in the urban environment he's used to,
Jay picked a wooded hillside plot with no infrastructure in place.
So no roads, no running water, and no electricity.
Jay's picking us up this morning.
He's going to take us to the house which is nice, actually,
in case it is difficult to find.
Really nice. So I think he said out of town. And...here we are.
Here, here, here, here.
Airport? Hang on.
There's a chopper over there, just landed.
-You must be Jay?
-How are you?
-Good to see you, I'm Piers.
-I'm Jay, how are you?
-Very good to meet you. Lovely to meet you.
Slightly nervous that we're meeting you at an airport?
Yes, well we set up something.
The house is not really remote, but at the top of a hill,
and maybe the best way to see it is from the air.
Are we going in this, are we?
This is a friend of ours, and it's his helicopter.
He's an aerobatic pilot.
-That's really exciting.
-You need the keys, which I'll give you these. That gets you in the front door.
We'll catch up with you later this afternoon.
-Have a good flight.
-Thank you very much, we'll see you at your house!
See you there!
How high are we, Davie?
We're 900ft above sea level.
And travelling how fast?
Oh, this is the way to see this place.
Look at the Catskills, isn't it beautiful?!
-Oh, wow, this is amazing.
And here's the Hudson.
So, I can see the house right now.
-Oh, can you?
-If you look at that peak in front of us...
-It's, kind of, really dark.
-There it is. There it is.
-Can you see it, Caroline?
-No, I don't, I'm...
-Oh, yes, I've just seen it.
It's quite dark, it's quite hard to see, isn't it?
What a glamorous way in. You said an approach is important for a house.
-It is SO important.
-This is quite an approach, isn't it?
'What an entrance!
'I feel like a Bond villain,
'flying into my villainous secret lair.'
Oh, Piers, it's quite glamorous!
Piers, Piers, Piers!
Look at it here with the helicopter in front of it.
"Oh, I've been expecting you, Mr Bond!"
This imposing structure almost
launches itself into the forest clearing.
But when Jay bought this virgin plot it was covered in trees.
It took a month just to clear the site
before they could start building.
Rather than create an oblong structure to sit across the view,
Jay cleverly rotated the plan 90 degrees
to maximise the forest views from three sides.
Due to strong winds, the house was constructed much like a skyscraper.
The foundations are exposed concrete,
with a steel superstructure used to create the height and strength
within the building.
Jay used a series of internal trusses and tension rods
to hold this aircraft-hanger sized building completely rigid,
retaining its millimetric precision.
Continuous bands of tinted glass wrap around the house,
mirroring the surrounding woodland.
Piers, this is nice.
I do love that reflection of those trees.
Yeah. And it is unusual to have a house pointing at the view,
cos, typically, you'd orientate a house along the view...
-Along the view, yes, absolutely.
-..and pointing out is unusual.
-He deliberately chose to do that, didn't he?
To focus the attention on the view.
And also to get the view along that way.
Listen, I've got the keys, do you want to go straight in?
-I would love to go straight in.
And the door works like a dream!
And attention to detail.
-Look at that.
-Now, it's quite dark.
"Room"? "Vestibule"? Hang on. Is this vestibule?
-Yes! It is vestibule!
-Look at that! wow!
The interior of this state-of-the-art house
exposes every detail of its
highly engineered construction.
A double-height open-plan living area
provides panoramic views of the surrounding forest
from every position inside this extraordinary home.
AS BOND VILLAIN: So, do you like my home, Mr Taylor?
The world will be mine!
I was suspicious, I have to say, when we arrived,
because it's a big statement, let's face it, here.
But the view is so dramatic, and then this room,
I mean, this room is really majestic.
-This is almost cathedral-like.
-Sitting here and looking up,
-I could be looking up at the roof of my local DIY superstore.
-I mean, it's exactly like that.
What is it that makes this so beautiful?
There's real care, real consideration,
and then you take off the shelf components like these little
open Metsec trusses, we call them...
-And you compose them...
-Is that that one? That one that does that?
-That's the ones that goes across.
-The zig zaggy one.
The zig zag ones. That's a really cheap, off the peg...
-You see that everywhere. Normally it's orange...
..but just to see it black, suddenly becomes very beautiful, doesn't it?
Yeah. And I think, also, there's real refinement where you need it.
So here, that is a beautiful bit of truss, and that's in tension,
that's pulling quite hard, stopping the sides from wobbling around.
I mean, there is real precision, alongside the everyday.
Stainless steel surfaces are featured throughout this house,
capturing reflections of the surrounding environment.
I like the staircase, the way it's...
-I mean, look at this, Caroline. That...
is a solid... You're aligning your chair.
It's like a house that makes you be really neat. Do you do that at home?
Do I hell. PIERS LAUGHS
I mean, this is solid steel.
It's so tactile.
-All you want to do is stroke it
all the way up the stairs.
That is the most beautiful weld I've ever seen.
-It's been made like a piece of jewellery.
You know, it's really hard to impress me with this sort of stuff,
but coming here and seeing the level of attention, the level of care,
the level of passion...
This is extraordinary because usually if we see this,
it's in a building that has cost £150 million,
the Gherkin or something, one of Foster's buildings,
and to bring that level of thinking down to this scale
is a real privilege and a delight to see.
And, yes, I'm impressed by all of this.
I am quite wowed by it, actually.
Every single detail of this house is hi-tech.
But I like my creature comforts,
and there's no sign of a kettle anywhere.
-I'm interested to see how it works, as well.
So, I'd like you to make me a cup of tea.
OK. So, this is the kitchen, and...
Good test.... It has taps, it has sinks,
there's a hob and an oven.
-Oh, fridge, here we are.
A cup of cha! Great.
-..cups. This can make hot water.
So that says... "Alien"?
Oh, "Align", I haven't got my glasses on.
I need a power point now.
-Here we are. Right, I'm going to bung a saucepan on.
What's that, Piers? That little one? Is that soap?
I think we've just blown up Russia(!)
Oh, wave your hand about.
-That one on. I think it's got a remote control.
It's probably...turn it on with an app.
-This isn't working.
-Do you think it's voice activated?
Make my tea - go!
No, we're struggling here, aren't we?
So, this is a house that is supposedly really easy to use,
we know our way around,
until we get to make a cup of tea.
And it was going so well,
until we tried to boil the water.
-I'm going to persevere with this thing.
SHE LAUGHS ..get busy!
-This isn't on. This isn't on, Piers. This is not on.
-It doesn't reach!
-Are you serious?
-I think I'm going for a lie-down. Do you mind?
Hang on, hang on, hang on.
How come I'm now making the cup of tea?
You're making me a cup of tea.
White, no sugar, thanks.
I am going to go and have a lie down.
-See you tomorrow.
-See you later, Piers.
I won't let this beat me. I'm a man, I know how to make things work.
WHISPERS: Welcome to my library.
Ah look, you can see where the ideas come from, here.
All these load-bearing structures from Germany.
Here we go. A bit of lukewarm water. She won't notice.
Here's your lovely cup of tea. You like it weak, don't you?
Oh, Piers, you didn't get it going, did you?
It's impossible. I think that is one of the problems
with very elaborate houses like this,
that when you come to do anything, it's too complex.
-Do you think we're just ill-informed?
-Probably just stupid.
After letting us explore his home, Jay's back,
and he's brought his airline-pilot wife Cindy with him.
-This is the first house you've built for yourself, isn't it?
-And you've been an architect for how long?
-Yeah. It feels to me like there's a lifetime's worth
of experience in this house.
So, what it is, I think, it's a lifetime of knowing what not to do.
It's not trying to be complicated, not trying to be flashy,
not trying to be nouveau,
not trying to be anything but just...
Build something that you can see
every part of the construction.
Were you involved in the early stage, Cindy?
I found the lot.
-Yes. I came up here,
it was just all woods and rock but it was just the view that...
-So, the very second time we came up, this was the view.
You're always sitting in the clouds or sitting in the colour red.
-Or sunrise, that the objects take on a character.
So, this is a typical sunrise.
To achieve such incredible views of the forest,
Jay's construction team had to fell a patch of woodland,
build a road and install utilities from scratch.
This is the road being built.
We built the road three times. It kept washing away.
That was the single... I learned how to engineer a road
-from the guy that...
-..built this road.
-Even finding the contractor,
when we were looking for the team, we said, you know,
it's a residential house but we were looking at commercial contractors,
and they wouldn't look at us, and we're like, "Can you just
"look at the drawings, because it's not your typical residential house."
Executing Jay's vision of perfection was a slow process.
The project required a team of highly skilled
and talented master builders,
who took three years to produce such an immaculately detailed home.
I was looking for the botched welds and the clumsy connections,
and there aren't any.
We really got very excited by the quality of the welding on your stairs.
I mean, it's so finely made.
The guys that made that stair made the fittings on
-the Pyramid at the Louvre in Paris.
And these are friends of ours that worked with us 30 years ago.
That makes perfect sense.
You brought a sensibility that is
from buildings that cost millions and millions and millions
of pounds into something that's of a domestic scale.
Do you think this is pretty close to
a kind of perfection for you?
No. I think this... I'd like to do it again.
Yeah... I think this is just a step along the way!
We'll do another house on the property or something, a guest house, something like that.
-I don't know.
-But you still feel you've got more to say...?
You'd do it again, but would you do it again, Cindy?
I would have to think about it.
It was a long three years!
Jay has let us continue to roam free in his extraordinary home.
And I'm noticing a distinct lack of doors or walls
dividing up rooms!
Not that that seems to bother Piers "Oh, I'm so unconventional" Taylor!
I mean, rooms are a bit suburban, really, aren't they?
That's such a Piers thing to say.
Well, I mean, you know, spaces are so much nicer.
And, actually, this is a house that doesn't have any rooms,
as far as I can see. I'm going to see if I can find some.
Try and find me a door.
Particularly, find one if it's on a lavatory, would you?
Jay has taken open plan living to the extreme.
He's used storage units to create a series of spaces with flexible uses.
I hope this is a bed.
Not just the wall collapsing on me!
These storage partitions carve up this large space beautifully,
without interrupting the forest views.
It's a world away from the boxy rooms we're used to at home.
I love the way that these aren't rooms.
I think my least favourite two words,
when you combine them in English, are "Master bedroom".
I mean, it's just a ridiculous conceit,
that you need a master bedroom.
But I guess this is "The master bedroom".
But actually, I mean...
I love it, that's it's just part of a series and sequence of spaces.
-Just blown away by the craftsmanship, actually.
The sheer brilliance of
how he's executed his vision is mind-blowing.
And really, I find what he's done extraordinary.
This is a real one-off.
You ordered the helicopter, didn't you?
No. I thought you did.
It's going to be a long walk back to the hotel.
The last leg of our forest adventure
takes us further afield.
We've flown halfway around the world to New Zealand's North Island.
We're about half an hour outside Auckland.
-Yeah, I mean, if we were in London we'd be in Croydon now.
And we're right on the edge of the world.
We're heading to the village of Piha, on the west coast,
home to the protected Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area.
This is ancient virgin bushland,
and you have to be so careful when you build here.
We're off to see an extraordinary home,
built on a plot of land covered in the native pohutukawa tree.
The owners wanted a three-bedroom house
that could function both indoors and out.
The architect's biggest challenge was to find a way of
bringing the forest right into the house
whilst having to navigate strict conservation laws.
This house that we're going to is called Under Pohutukawa,
and I think they had to clear as few trees from the site as possible,
and then nestle the house in among the trees.
I like that sort of challenge offered to architects,
I think it's really important to say,
"No, you can't just have a clear site,
"you have to work with what's here,
"and nature comes first and the building comes second."
Oh, Piers, Piers, Piers. Slow down.
-Are we here?
-I think that's... It's here.
-Here we are.
Is there a house there at all?
Mostly you can see trees.
And that must be a pohutukawa tree.
Shall we have a look?
It's like an enchanted forest in here.
I love this. I love the sense of ducking down
under these beautiful branches.
There's something about coming into these gnarled, sort of,
very textured...almost like arms,
coming in to being embraced by the arms of the pohutukawa trees.
A lot of people would want to be by the sea,
or in the mountains with the view,
but I like to be in the forest, and this feels like coming home.
To make way for the house in this indigenous woodland,
the planners agreed to the removal of four pohutukawa trees.
A two-storey open-plan living and dining area
nestles into the site.
Placed to the rear and side of the house,
two wooden-clad towers create private areas
for bedrooms and bathrooms.
The entire building is enclosed by a large glass roof,
which is supported by steel and timber struts,
mimicking the branches of the surrounding trees.
The texture of this bark set against
the textures of that cladding -
it's wonderful, isn't it?
And the cladding is a little bit like the bark,
in that it has real depth.
It's got bits of timber in three different layers.
Yeah, it has, actually, hasn't it?
Often contemporary buildings are really flat
but this feels textured,
layered and rich. And I love the way you can see through the building
to the canopy the other side.
Cos this house just sort of snuggles into the trees.
-It does. It really does.
-The trees snuggle it up.
And then... What are...? They're like trees, aren't they?
They are. They are called structural trees...
Which is really a way of supporting the roof.
So, when it goes up to the sky,
you're not looking at huge bits of structure, but you're looking at
So, I think we need to find our way in.
-I know, but it's hard to leave these trees, isn't it?
Inside, the textures, tones and colours of this house
are inspired by the trees that surround it.
-I love this.
It's quite special, actually.
-It's really special.
-It is. It is special.
-It's really special.
The glass roof and walls make the house seem almost transparent,
allowing the surrounding forest to be viewed from every direction.
-Check out this, Caroline.
Look at this beautiful view back into the forest, here.
-How exotic is that?
And, again, you're in the trees again!
Totally in the trees.
I love the fact that everything has a slightly, sort of,
filigree notion to it, so you can see through everything.
-It's great from here, actually.
-That's extraordinary, isn't it?
-Yeah, love that.
Seeing through the lamp shade, through the structural trees,
through the actual trees to the sky.
Through the roof to the sky to the real trees.
And I'm in love with this cladding.
-It's great, isn't it?
-I've not seen anything quite like it.
-I really like this. And what are those holes for?
-Oh, is it a speaker?
-Maybe it is.
-Look at that!
-You've broken it?!
-There's the TV and everything.
-Oh, very cool.
This is just plywood with bits of timber stuck on.
So, that's quite an inexpensive way to do it, isn't it?
-And because they've used different widths,
it looks expensive and interesting and architectural
and sculptural, doesn't it?
What's lovely is that it doesn't act as a block for your eye
because it has depth, and your eye keeps travelling.
-A little bit like the canopy again.
And the building gets much more delicate
-as it goes up...
-..like trees, and then it
completely dematerialises against the sky, which is lovely.
So, it feels like we're immersed in canopy all the time.
Do you think this all opens up, Piers?
Yeah, it does. These doors are all stacked down there.
Do you think we should have a go at opening it all up,
-and actually getting the full experience?
-So, just the structure remaining.
Yeah, we will just have, kind of, the trunks of the building.
Here we are.
-Get your fingers out of the way.
-OK, I'm going all the way down.
Beautiful bits of glass, aren't they?
Massive. This is what we use on stage
-when we move trucks on and off stage.
You have a track in the floor to take bits of scenery
on and off in exactly the same way.
I love buildings that move, or bits of buildings that move.
Why don't we do it more? We don't do enough of this, do we?
You can muck about and change it, like a magic box, or something.
Yeah. I think by law all houses should have to do this.
And look, this suddenly creates a really good space, doesn't it?
What's wonderful is that I don't know whether I'm inside or outside now,
I'm just in a beautiful environment.
Why don't architects do this more often?
Cos I think this is one of the most valuable things that architects
could be doing for us, really.
People will tell you that we don't have the climate for it
in the UK but, actually, we do.
Because this isn't a warm day, this is 12, 13 degrees
but because it faces the right way, and it's protected from the cold winds,
it makes it a really usable space.
-Because people want to be outside.
-But historically, they didn't.
Historically we were fearful of natural landscape,
particularly quite wild landscapes like this.
So, we retreated in, and we looked at it through a pair of doors
or a little pair of windows.
The owners of this house, Gary and Sherry,
are property developers from Auckland.
Challenged with building on a plot covered with pohutukawa trees,
they enlisted award-winning architects,
Lance and Nicola Herbst,
to navigate the sacred trees and design their perfect holiday home.
What was your brief to them? What were you after?
Our brief was not a lot, actually.
We wanted light, good indoor-outdoor flow
-because we loved the outside a lot.
And that was about it, really.
We had no concept of what sort of look we wanted.
And what was the first thing that they gave to you?
What was the first drawing like?
-It was this.
-It was this already?
-Yes, it was.
-Pretty much, yes.
-When we saw it...
-They were nervous, we were nervous!
-We were nervous.
I saw dollar signs in front of my eyes,
thinking, "This is going to cost a lot of money."
THEY LAUGH Yeah, yeah.
So, we took it away for two to three weeks, and we mulled it over.
-Did you make any changes to those initial drawings?
Well, it captured exactly what we wanted.
We didn't know what we wanted until we saw it.
When we saw it, it...
We thought, "Yeah, that's what we want."
We did put our utmost trust in the architects,
and believed in them and their work and what they were capable of.
They've got a skill you don't have,
and they can see things we can't see, so we thought,
"Let them go for it."
I think that the design that the architects came up with
made it easier to get through the council for consent.
Cos they're really strict, aren't they?
-They have preservation orders on all the trees.
When the trees came out, we had to have our arborist on site,
the council had an arborist on site to make sure that
they took out exactly...just these four,
and that nothing else was damaged.
Once the trees had been carefully removed,
the house took 15 months to construct.
Gary acted as project manager,
keeping the workers on schedule and their budget on track.
-I was here every day.
-Worked alongside the builder.
-I was the catch-it and fetch-it man.
All the labouring work.
All the labouring stuff that the others didn't want to do!
So, do you know every inch of this building?
Every little bit of it. Yeah.
-Do you love the house?
How close to it is your dream house?
Oh, for me, I think it's there.
We're not looking for anything else.
Probably feet first out of here!
Gary has told me that there is more to this place than meets the eye.
Apparently, there are some secret spaces to discover!
I don't know what this bit is.
It's like a sort of...
I don't know... Reading area, or...?
There's somewhere to lie down and sleep for the guests, or something,
down there. What it does give you is a brilliant view
of both sets of trees,
the real trees and the architectural trees,
which look wonderful from up here.
And it gives you a very, very nice view of Piers Taylor.
What do you think this is up here?
It's anything you want it to be.
And isn't that great?
Because rooms, you know, that's so 20th century,
so 19th century.
It's a beautiful space to do whatever you want, and, critically,
look at the trees.
Mmm, see, I'm going to translate for those of you at home that aren't architects,
It means, "It's a little corridor we didn't know what to do with."
PIERS LAUGHS It's a waste of space...
unlike anybody else here!
There's something kind of wonderful about the... Oops!
-Where have you gone?
-Are you still alive?
-I've just found...
I found a secret door!
And there's a bedroom behind me!
You're lucky you didn't fall down a big hole.
Mmm, it's a very, very nice bedroom.
But very simple because it's not about being inside,
cos this place is all about the trees.
I can hear the sea,
I can smell the trees...
..and there's nothing there!
I think that's really brilliant.
Many people think of buildings in terms of what shape they are
and what colour they are,
but this house is so much about transparency and breaking down
the mass of the building.
If you cut a section through this house,
a solid bedroom block like this
and a series of decks that move up and down
to get you into the house, but in theory,
these bedroom pods would be a very big block,
so what this architect has cleverly done
is provide a solid roof there,
then a transparent roof,
and then he's held up that transparent roof
on the series of structural trees
that allow you to see
right the way through the house.
And I think what happens ultimately,
is that you forget the building's there
and you really feel like you're in the canopy.
To dig further into the challenges this house presented,
I'm meeting one half of the architect duo, Lance Herbst.
This is an extraordinary site.
Tell me what it was like for you first coming here?
So, coming to the site, was one of those things,
you looked at the site and it was essentially
99% covered in a mature pohutukawa forest
and you're first feeling is,
"We're never going to get a consent for this."
It was one of those that was so difficult
that we knew that the only way we knew we'd be able to
even get a consent was to come in with something very poetic.
And your first diagram for a building that nestled
-under these trees, what was that?
-It was trees.
Yeah. It was one of those.
It's an old... I mean, it's not a brand-new way of thinking.
Like, throughout the history of modernism,
there had been people who had tried to do buildings that are that,
kind of, reference to trees, so it literally was a case of,
"OK, we've got to have a go at this". And I mean, as you know,
as an architect, it's an incredibly...
It's tight rope you walk. It can go spectacularly wrong.
Building on this site involved sacrificing four ancient
and fuelled a passionate response from the architects.
We just felt that we needed to do something
that was a kind of... A memory of the trees that we had cut down.
So, we started using a number of metaphors
inside of that tree language.
You will notice, that even though these are very much tree structures,
they are also very geometrically rigorous.
It's an element which is neither man-made nor neither organic.
Because of course, when you try to mimic a tree, it looks ridiculous,
but here there is a tautness and a crispness.
The branches and trunks of these load-bearing structural trees
not only support the glass roof but also had to withstand
the rigours of the New Zealand's seismic terrain.
In New Zealand, we have a...
You know, it's a country of earthquakes. We have a seismic code,
so this structure needs to resist forces that actually aren't present
until they happen. So, structurally, there are massive, you know,
steel beams going through the roof
and tying back, and tying back, into that roof
to give the building resistance in the event of an earthquake.
Architects design and build a lot of buildings in their careers,
but only a few are really special.
Tell me whether this building is one of those for you?
Yeah, this one will be hard to beat.
It was one of those moments where everything came together.
You know Gary and Sherry aren't clients, they're patrons,
and it's a completely different approach that someone takes
when they set about to make a building that is a piece of art,
compared to making shelter.
When we arrived, just being here amongst these trees,
I knew it was going to be special, but I don't think I realised
quite how special it was going to be.
A building like this happens maybe three or four times
in an architect's career,
and this reminds me of why I became an architect.
You're always looking for this opportunity, that is so rare,
when everything comes together - perfect site, perfect client,
It's perfection in the pohutukawas.
'Next time, Piers and I will be exploring some of the most
'extraordinary coastal homes in the world...'
Oh! It's so beautiful!
'..to discover how architects have overcome the challenges of building
'incredible homes by the water.'
This is the pile that's stopping the whole house tipping into the sea.