Te Waonui Forest Retreat

28/02/2013 0 By Chris Parnell

Luxury with an ecological conscience
Te Waonui Forest Retreat, Franz Josef

“Te Waonui has been designed to blend into its environment rather than impose on it. We shared our client’s desire to make this a hotel that spoke of its location.” – Richard Dalman, Dalman Architecture

Native birds twitter and tweet from the dense and very lush native rainforest. In one direction lies the rugged beauty of the West Coast’s shoreline straddling the Tasman Sea; in the other majestic mountains soar protectively skyward; and a few minutes away a World Heritage glacier imparts her icy beauty. The sheer beauty of Franz Josef imprints itself indelibly into a visitor’s memory bank.

The concept of building a brand new 100-room hotel in these surrounds would horrify most – a modern building offering luxury and comfort would surely be out of place? Not if the group undertaking the construction is the Scenic Hotel Group, a group whose history began in this very region some 28 years ago. Their mission was to embrace the stunning environment, bowing to and complementing Mother Nature rather than intruding on her space.

Important specimen trees were located and the building adjusted to preserve as many as possible. Where bush had to be cleared, new landscaping has been planted with natives to re-establish the natural environment.

Some of the buildings are raised above ground level, allowing a native ground cover to thrive, in turn melding the building into the landscape.

Managing Director Brendan Taylor: “The natural environment is what brings people to the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand so we wanted our new property to be an extension of that environment and make guests feel they were a part of it even at the end of the day.”

Te Waonui Forest Retreat thus incorporates the highest levels of environmentally sustainable design, constructed largely from rough-sawn cedar and plywood. Making use of natural light, heating and ventilation was another priority, and the computerised systems optimise energy management.

Four guests wings surround a central courtyard where a large stand of bush has been preserved, affording each and every room with views of natural vegetation of soaring 20m high trees. Covered external walkways linking the four wings give guests a sense of being right in the rainforest. Permeable gravel car parks, and swales instead of concrete kerbs and channels are?indications of some of the finer details that have been taken into account into the construction of this retreat.

The interiors of Te Waonui Forest Retreat also take inspiration from the region boasting possum furs, wool carpeting, natural fabrics and local artworks. Soft timbered detailing, natural colour schemes and recycled local materials make the hotel at one with its magical surroundings.

Glowworm lighting has been used to great effect in the downstairs Frond Bar, where the servery represents a cave. The space is deliberately kept dark to create an impression of being on the forest floor. Even the wall leading to the Frond Bar gives thought to local heritage – a “coal face” since coal is a major industry on the West Coast.

The double height foyer represents a forest clearing, a light and airy space.

In the Canopy Restaurant, guests literally dine amongst the trees overlooking the rainforest canopy outside. Executive chef, Keith McPhee has designed menus with a local theme that incorporate as much local produce as possible.??Galvanised steel handrails and paving made with aggregate from the local Waiho River helps maintain a natural, rugged West Coast look, while all paint finishes are low in toxicity. Observant guests may notice a Kea’s wing in the curtain linings, red berries in the textured floor rugs and glacial blue accents in the joinery.

Large roof overhangs protect the buildings from the notorious West Coast rain as well as keeping it cool in summer. Slatted screens and sun shading further filter the sun’s impact, much as the forest canopy would do. ??Guests can avail themselves of a 24-hour reception, with check-in facilities for individual travellers and tour groups. There’s a local activity desk, 24-hour room service, guest laundries, and much more. Guest room temperatures can be individually controlled, the bed linen is crisp and luxurious, a pillow menu ensures a comfortable night’s sleep and entertainment is by way of SKY movies and music options via the LCD TV suite.

Each room enjoys a private balcony looking into the rainforest and offers a mix of large walk-in showers and/or baths to soak in. Double glazing and best-practice insulation ensure a warm, cosy space for guests to end or begin their day, no matter what the rugged West Coast weather throws at them.

A truly innovative retreat. Te Waonui Forest Retreat raises the bar in unique luxury hotel accommodation in New Zealand.


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