Better Place Forests

Framed views connect visitors with the forest landscape

  • Type Institutional,
  • Location Point Arena, California
  • Area 1,200 s.f.
  • Status Concept
  • Date 2017
  • Collaborators

    Min | Day

    Landscape Architect: Fletcher Studio

The Forest Chapel is a visitor’s center, worship space, and site office for Better Place Forests, America’s first spreading forest. A spreading forest is a permanently protected forest where families can spread the ashes of their loved ones under private family trees. Better Place Forests’ first forest opened in 2018 in a minimally-groomed redwood forest overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Mendocino County, California.

The Forest Chapel provides a space of calm in a setting of natural beauty that allows for family and friends to visit, cope with loss, heal, remember, and celebrate loved ones. Located in a clearing overlooking the ocean, the design employs a simple strategy of framed views to connect the visitor with the site while providing a protected space for gathering and reflection. Designed for the Mendocino location, the concept is also an adaptable prototype for future spreading forests where the number and configuration of structural modules can be adjusted for different functional demands or site constraints.

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A building constructed around framed views: Redwood forest <--> meadow and Pacific Ocean.

Modular form: We derived the shape with a simple goal: to frame meadow and ocean views in a horizontal panorama and forest views in a vertical aperture. The result is a modular building system that may be clustered in different ways to support a wide range of functions and to accommodate the particularities of different sites.

Pre-fabricated Mass Timber Construction

Given the remote and delicate nature of the original site, we designed the building to exert minimal pressure on the land during construction. A concrete pier foundation anchors the structure to bedrock and Glulam beams support a cross-laminated timber (CLT) floor. The superstructure above relies on prefabricated CLT panels with steel flitch plates at the vertices. The panels are placed from a single crane location and bolted together on site in a very compressed construction schedule. Exterior finishes will be fabricated in panels off-site and installed on the CLT structure in a modified rain screen configuration. At the Mendocino site, exterior the cladding comprises extra-long Redwood shingles while the cladding may vary at other locations. The interior surfaces are exposed, sealed CLT with wood plugs covering the fasteners. While the office is enclosed and minimally conditioned, the interior of the large gathering space is not conditioned and has glass windscreens for protection on the ocean view side.

Orientation to nearby trees.

Learn more about Better Place Forests and their vision at their website:

Project Awards

2017 AIA Central States Region Merit Award

2017 AIA Nebraska Honor Award for Unbuilt Architecture

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