Winning timber shelter harmonises with nature

09 July 2018

Two architecture students from the University of Auckland have won first prize in an international design competition with their plans for an innovative timber house set in a North Island redwood forest.

Benjamin Feng and Thomas Hundarto’s design proposal called Sanctuarium won the second annual House In Forest 2018: Timber House Design Competition, beating entries from all around the world.

The open competition is designed to challenge and explore the fantastic ideas of architectural design, as well as landscape design and site planning. Its aim is to promote the protection of the forest and its environment, as well as focus on urban design problems, while simultaneously raising awareness of sustainability. Entrants were challenged to conceive a new and original concept for a timber house within a forest.

The pair, who are both postgraduate students at the School of Architecture and Planning based their winning structure in the Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua. Acknowledging the ongoing loss of the Earth’s forested areas, they undertook to produce a design that co-existed with the area’s ecosystem while also causing minimum disruption to the environment.

Drawing inspiration from the idea of the basic human need for shelter, their design features four petal-like canopies with transparent membrane that allow light in while keeping weather out. The canopies also function as a water collection device, channelling water towards the core and down into storage below. It also houses a self-sustaining vertical farm.

Utilising timber, one of the world’s most sustainable building materials, the house which has a Glulam Core (laminated timber), has three levels below ground via a spiral staircase.

Intended for short-term visits Sanctuarium offers the fundamental functions and elements of a traditional house, while also challenging the idea of human’s control over nature, by harmonising with it.

The judges included Abigail Randall, principal of Randall Architects; Bill Motley of Chicago-based MWorks Architects and Afroza Ahmed, associate professor at the State University of Bangladesh.

Thomas and Ben’s prize includes $500 and publication of their portfolio.


Miranda Playfair | Media Relations Adviser
Communications Office | University of Auckland
DDI 09 923 5029 / 09 923 6902  Mob 021 063 8393