Years ago, when the owner and his young daughter explored the remote hills surrounding their Silicon Valley home, they discovered an idyllic setting below a ridge, under a grove of large California live oaks. They first thought the setting would be perfect for a tree house, but the idea later evolved into the Tea Houses, places where one could retreat into nature. There are three, each with its own purpose: meditation, sleeping and ‘visioning’ or creative thinking.
Each tea house is designed as a transparent steel and glass pavilion, hovering like a lantern over the natural landscape. Cast-in-place concrete core elements anchor the pavilions, supporting steel channel rim joists which cantilever beyond the cores to support the floor and roof planes. With its minimal footprint, the design treads lightly on the land, minimizing grading and preserving the delicate root systems of the native oaks.
Tea Houses, Silicon Valley, California, by Swatt Miers Architects
A residential building located halfway up a cliff, overlooking the ocean. Thick clumps of trees that grow along the slope of the land surrounding the house cast a series of organic silhouettes that make the slope seem to come alive. We decided that the appropriate form to build would be as low-lying as possible, while also allowing the architecture to become embedded in the surrounding landscape according to the contours of the terrain. This would allow us to minimize the impact of the building on its environment. The design of the walls plays an important role in creating the overall sense of presence that a building projects. As such, we also tried to prevent the walls of this house from becoming surfaces that would obstruct or impede movement and sight.
Glass and screens along the enclosed perimeter of the house gives the second floor of this residence a certain transparency. Slender, deep-set eaves cast deep shadows on the facade of the building, softening the impact of the building’s physical presence in relation to its environment. The various components of the building were structured in order to allow the inhabitants to enjoy a different view of the outside on each level. The first floor features a stone floor and concrete walls finished with plaster, while the Japanese paper screens fitted inside the glass reflect the shadows of plants and trees. The hard-edged surfaces and finishes coexist with the soft, muted tones of the Japanese paper.
The second storey, in contrast, features an open-plan living space, the entirety of which can be opened up towards the ocean. A series of wide eaves stand between the outside of the house and the interior, which is articulated into smaller sections by a row of pillars. Going down the staircase-shaped terrace allows one to gradually draw closer to the outdoor landscape. The section that divides the two different elevations on this floor provides seating throughout, functioning as a unique Japanese-style verandah (engawa). A steel-reinforced concrete structure was used for the second floor, and a Vierendeel bridge structure allowed us to float a large, thin roof on top. The pillars consist of square cylindrical poles (measuring 75mm across) made of solid iron arranged in a densely packed formation using wooden modules (900 x 1800mm). By creating several areas of low-level rigidity, we were able to do away with the need for braces.
To create a serene family sanctuary that harmoniously connects inhabitants with the surrounding natural environment, while combining the best sustainable, eco- friendly materials and energy efficient technologies with minimalist architectural design.
Ice House, Reykjavik, Iceland, by Minarc, Photography © Torfi Agnarsson
The project consists of two bronze structures which covers the unique runic stones and secure and preserve them for the future. The runic stones mark Denmark’ transition to Christianity in year 965, and the monument is also known as Denmark’s “birth certificate”. The monument is included on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage. The project was inaugurated in December 2011 and it is based on the winning competition project made by NOBEL arkitekter in March 2010.
The architectural composition emphasizes the experience of the runic stones, and forms a stylized dialogue between the two stones, which represents the first two kings of Denmark – Gorm and Harald Bluetooth. The bronze angles form one gable and the roof for each runic stone, while the other sides are designed with large glass surfaces. The coverings provide an architectural composition and allow spectators to get very close to the runic stones.
Preservation of Runic Stones, Jelling, Denmark, by NOBEL Arkitekter
“The Eilbek Canal, the moorings being considerably lower than street level and the banks lined with dense vegetation, conyeys the impression of introversion. Also the location between the bridges emphasises the impression of a quiet, enclosed area. Taking up this atmosphere we have purposely refrained from using dynamic, mobile-looking design elements in the newbuilding of our houseboat and are trying to establish a connection to the maritime world via materialities, construction and haptic.”
Houseboat on the Eilbek Canal, by Sprenger von der Lippe
Life in Spyaral, Tokyo, Japan, by Hideaki Takayanagi Architects
Ten years ago, when StudioMK27 tried to do a project using exposed concrete, many builders said that this was practically impossible. Yeah, Right – Brazil that has a vast modern tradition in the use of raw concrete? During a determinate period, in the 90′s, the use of the material declined sharply, restricted to the few architects that used it experimentally and sporadically, without fixing a constructive know-how.
Concrete is, on the other hand, a type of x-ray of the construction and of the passing of time, where the surface is impregnated not only with the smallest defects but also the knots of the wood. It is liquid stone, as has already been said. The experience of constructing in raw concrete during these last ten years has shown StudioMK27 the impracticality of making an absolutely perfect material. The House of Ipês incorporates this experience of design and construction in exposed concrete.
In this house the material is used in a radical manner throughout the upper volume and, as such, the large concrete box appears to be floating atop a glass volume. In the living room, which continues to the veranda and the garden, the doors open entirely, diluting the division between interior and exterior. The main entrance is done through pivoting panels that also open entirely to the front garden. In the internal space, a long irregularly-shaped sofa wriggles around the room, constructing a space with no hierarchy among the different orientations.
On the top floor, a TV room distributes the circulation to the bedrooms, which are lit by a wood block on the concrete wall of the facade. The wooden brises offer the interior great thermal comfort and makes it possible to totally control the lighting.
The structure of the house incorporates large spans which accentuate the Idea of a floating Box, besides propitiating a totally free and continuous space. The use of raw concrete refers to modern buildings, aesthetically and functionally, as in a dialogue with this modern architecture. The House of Ipês, with its grand spans and brute material, transpires a sobriety and the concrete impregnated by the passage of time, exposes the existence of the life of the building.
Ipês House, Brazil, by Marcio Kogan, StudioMK27
Further Lane House, Amagansett, New York, USA, by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects
Architect Vasco Vieira, principal of Arqui+ Arquitectura, has just completed Casa Vale do Lobo. The contemporary home is stark white with a mix of wood and glass. An absolute exquisite piece of architecture, but there is no denying the property’s real beauty — the swimming pool. The concrete that holds the water is risen from the ground, and acts as a waterfall to the shallow pond below it. The site of the home is ‘U’ shaped, one side being the home, on the other a wooded deck to relax on and the infinity pool. Though the golf course property sits on a sea side, this epic pool might be enough to keep it’s owners in fresh waters.