“For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life – the light and the air which vary continually. For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value.” Claude Monet.
The project for this house emerged from a very simple premise, to build on a very steep piece of land with a gradient of almost 100%, boasting wonderful views and on a tight budget. It was this highly complicated plot of land, surrounded by pine trees, that defined a good part of this project. The land, and its perspectives, constantly changing as the hours pass, the colour of the trees, the movement of sun and shadows…
On the one hand, the reduced dimensions of the plot and its complex orography, and on the other the desire to leave the minimum imprint on the land led us to seek out a floorplan which, matching the trees that surround it, emerges from a trunk well anchored to the land and opens up in braches on each floor, in such a way that each branch becomes the terrace of the upper level at the same time as it becomes the porch of the lower one. All this helps create a very formal building, with huge cantilevers facing out to emptiness, the woods and the sea which lie before it. A structure which opens up to these views and the sun, and which thanks to the terraces and the porches confuse the interior with the exterior.
A building which is equally formal in both its volume and the materials which compose it. Concrete, iron, timber and stone combining in a way that emphasizes the character of each one. In the end, the whole building represents a dialogue between emptiness and fullness, between materials, between outside and inside; seeking out a balance between these highly contrasting parts.
Mediterrrani 32, Sant Pol de Mar, Barcelona, Spain, by Isern Associats
Photography © Adrià Goula
Located on five acres of dense Ohia forest, this cast-in-place concrete house frames indoor and outdoor living spaces along with views of the forest, the sky, and the coastline. It continues our exploration of a reductive architecture that enhances the experience of living in this compelling environment.
The main feature of the house is a concrete beam, 140 foot long, 48 inch tall x 12 inch wide running the length of the building with only three short concrete walls supporting it along its massive span. The concrete beam allows for sizable spans of uninterrupted glass and covered outdoor space, creating a permeable edge between the man-made and nature, amplify the sensation of living in the Ohia forest.
Lavaflow 7 – Mayer/Penland House, Big Island, Hawaii, by Craig Steely Architecture
Located on a rolling farm property in upstate New York, the LM Guest House celebrates the beauty of the surrounding landscape-sweeping views through an all-glass facade magnify the spacious, open feel of the living areas. The home employs several sustainable design strategies including geothermal heating and cooling, radiant floors, motorized solar shading, photovoltaic panels, and rainwater harvesting.
The open living and sleeping areas flow around a compact slatted wood core that disguises the mechanical, storage, and bathing spaces. Two sleeping couchettes with built-in bunk beds provide efficient accommodations for additional weekend guests. Natural white oak wood detailing provides warmth and texture throughout the home.
The high-performance glass facade was pre-fabricated off site, shipped in one container, and erected in two days. An innovative steel frame structure allows the roof to cantilever dramatically over the open living areas and bedroom.
LM Guest House, by Desai/Chia Architecture, Photography by Paul Warchol
The New Canaan Residence welcomes its owners and their visitors into what feels like a floating pavilion in the tree canopy. A winding drive brings visitors through the forest to arrive at a low and gracious landscaped court that frames the glass entry pavilion. From this court, the transparency of the house is evident: floor-to-ceiling glass allows views through the house, incorporating the landscape into the body of the house. The tree canopy becomes a part of the architecture and creates a visual perimeter that changes with the seasons.
The upper level features the home’s primary gathering spaces, as well as bedrooms and a gymnasium. A staircase tucked behind the free-standing fireplace opens on to the lower level of the house, which is carved into the earth and gives views directly onto the forest floor. The lower level provides additional social spaces and features a media room, library, and two home offices. The lower level spaces link to a series of “outdoor rooms” that feature a fireplace and distinct seating areas. The grounded, cozy nature of the lower level provides an experiential contrast to the expansive and light-filled level above. The swimming pool and separate pool house emphasize the project’s strong lines and classically modern roots.
Designed for a young family, Melbourne-based Clare Cousins Architects have restored an existing Edwardian house and made a single story addition, engaging with the garden with its meandering facade of glass and bricks. A flexible space, referred to as a studio, is housed on top of the new garage forming a double story mass at the rear of the site to help screen large neighbouring buildings.
Taking advantage of the long linear plot and rear laneway access, a garage with studio above was designed first, conceived as a windowless sculptural form perched on a garage clock to provide a studio or guest bedroom. The house extension curves to maximise its northern orientation and to visually incorporate the native landscaping into the house.
This project plays with raw building materials, in concrete and timber, and with pattern, in brick bonds and linear spacing. The sculptural first floor contains a studio and bathroom inspired by Alvar Alto glassware with a ribbed timber cladding that continues across the west-facing windows to provide solar protection.
Designed by the acclaimed Portuguese architect Bak Gordon and built in 2010, it won the FAD Award, was nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Prize and was chosen to be part of Portugal’s official representation at the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale. It was also listed by Wallpaper* magazine as one of the top 20 reasons to visit Portugal.
The house is primarily concrete, which, combined with a sophisticated modern vintage interior, creates a beautiful and soothing space. There are extensive gardens, with five patios, a swimming pool and a pond.
The dwelling consists of two perpendicular rectangular footprints. on the east/west axis is a reinforced concrete shell resembling an extruded version of the iconographic house, complete with a green roof that roots it discretely into the green hilly landscape. this volume contains all the interior program organized in a linear fashion with a sequence of spaces from the garage and entry to the master suite at the other extreme. A screen of retractable slender wooden slats wraps the entire envelope along the exterior glass wall to soften direct sunlight, with the ability to open entirely to the exterior. All the private bedrooms are situated along the eastern elevation facing down the valley, with the housekeepers’ quarters and social spaces along the opposite side, separated by a long linear hallway. at the point where this solid mass intersects with the perpendicular wooden deck, the program becomes neither indoor nor outdoor, with a barbeque, bar and lounge area under the pitched roof but entirely open to the elements. the public living room and tv room flanking this space contain large glass doors that visually, if not spatially, connect the two. the timber terrace extends out towards the lower area of the site, ending in a swimming pool hoisted upon a concrete plinth that reflects the picturesque environment.
Tepoztlan, is a small town nestled between rocky cliffs located to the south of Mexico City, 50 kilometers away from the vibrant metropolis. With its well preserved historic center and wild countryside, Tepoztlan is a town of legends and deep cultural roots that has been appreciated by writers, poets, artists and musicians over many decades, turning it into their hometown or weekend retreat. Located in this incredible context and surrounded by an astonishing landscape, the Tepoztlan Lounge is the first building completed of a larger project that also includes a series of bungalows of different sizes and designs, which can be rented by years, months or days.
Tepoztlán Lounge, Tepoztlán, Morelos, México, by Cadaval & Solà-Morales
Designed to fulfil the desires and needs of a young family, Villa L is set in the woods of central Netherlands, fully oriented towards the sun and the views on the garden. Villa L is a spatially diverse residence where every floor has its own strong identity, creating a broad spatial spectrum within a unified whole. A young family with three children asked Powerhouse Company and RAU to design a house that would fulfill their dreams: a paradox of a house that is simple yet surprising, open yet specific, minimal yet luxurious. Powerhouse Company, responsible for the design, resolved these contradictions with a house based on a radical differentiation of spatial experiences on three floors (of which one is subterranean). RAU embedded the sustainable strategy for the villa in the design. Three clear levels, with three very different characters and functionalities as a basis for family life to emerge.
One level is for living, a generously open ground floor. A strip of serving rooms containing storage, toilets and stairs, provides easily access to the luxuriously open living spaces. The kitchen and living room are oriented maximally to the sun and view. In close relation to this living area there are two studies located on the north side next to the entrance.
The collection of rooms on the first floor provides space for sleeping and privacy. Set in a delicate roof garden, all the bedrooms are autonomous volumes crafted in their entirety from dark wood. They work like a village of cabins, providing intimacy and privacy. Every room is like a world of its own with private views over the wooded landscape. The curved basement is for guests, wellness and storage. The excavations allow the pool and the guest rooms to have fully glazed facades and direct access to the garden. The house incorporates innovative sustainable measures including a hot and cold-water storage and extensive use of hidden PV cells. The basement contains a dedicated area for the high-end energy saving installations.
Villa L, Utrecht, The Netherlands, by Powerhouse Company, in collaboration with RAU