A carefully considered response to a very steep site with understated ‘mute’, gently sloping, roughly rendered walls and a curved concrete roof. Celebrating modern Australian family life, a generosity of space without ostentation that is practical and serviceable.
Yarra House, by Leeton Pointon Architects, in association with Susi Leeton Architects, Photography © Peter Bennets
Defined by a tall peripheral wall and several trees scattered throughout the property, the form follows the stacking of three basic concrete boxes of differing dimensions, the bottom open on the east/west axis and the top two facing north/south. made for a photographer to live and work, the ground level is a large open studio space, characterized by an all-white neutral interior that allows for control over color. Two large aluminum metal doors like awnings swing open to bring the exterior gardens into the space to provide natural light, or can be completely closed off so that the artist may manipulate artificial lights as desired. A free-standing green Formica box contains the bathroom and dressing room and separates the main studio area from the concealed stairs along the wall, lit from the sky, that take the residents up to the kitchen and dining room. This next volume is a single open space with a smaller inset concrete core containing the restroom, kitchen and storage space. The entire northern facade is a uniform fine wooden screen left in its natural dark stain that filters the intensity of the natural light coming in, while still allowing views to the outside with retractable sections; at night this lattice skin projects pixelated silhouettes of the interior as it glows from interior light. a wall of sliding glass panels further insulates the structure and provides cross ventilation. Following the vertical circulation to the next level reveals a living area within a smaller-scale version of the previous mass, containing a vibrant red mashrabiya skin that opens to a rooftop terrace, extending views over the tree canopies.
Our 2010 series on architectural models included the X-House (Casa X), Wallpaper* magazine has published some images of the completed project.
The X House project aims to solve by the definition of a system, language, or even through a unique form, a number of inquiries that rise up when we read the specific given site: how to protect and give protagonism to an impressive pine, that is located on the top of the site, and that makes access and approximation to the house extremely complex from the street; how to avoid deciding between the views to the sea and those to the mountains, and allow both visions in opposite directions; how to neutralize through form the presence of the contiguous constructions, to build up a fake isolation that denies the neighbours; how to double the main views, permitting quality frontal views from the front and the rear of the house; how to resolve so many a priories with a simple movement that answers to all of the previous aims without prioritizing nor explicitly formulating a response to any of them. The form, a unique form, is the result of a long process of search of individual answers to each of those challenges; thus, the form is not an a priori, but an effort to give a unitary response that satisfies each of the questions rose up in the design process.
The X House is also a constructive exploration: a technique regularly used for the infrastructural construction such as bridges and tunnels, is here developed to meet the architectural scale, aiming to incorporate efficiency, and reduction of costs to the construction. The use of a mixed technique based on the application of a high-density concrete allows projecting the material at a high pressure to a single-sided formwork, and to acquire high structural resistance in extremely short periods of time. Thus, it is possible to project continuous 6m high walls without the need to use a two-sided formwork (which would be the regular construction procedure). The house is therefore a living expression of the specific technique, and accumulates in its skin the diverse and continuous knowledge acquired within the process of construction.
The five courtyards articulate the flat continuous space of the house. The continuous concrete ceiling perforated by many square skylights erases the border between outside and inside.
Broken Pitched Roof House, Nakatsu, Oita, Japan, by NKS Architects
A new angular home in the south of Portugal has become a man made centerpiece between a family of 400 olive trees. The stark white structure, which appears to be a new build, is actually the remodeling and reconstruction of an existing home that has been covered with a geometric shell-like architectural canopy for temperature control against the beaming sun. Vitor Vilhena, founding architect of Vitor Vilhena Arquitectura, explains that the “architectural concept seeks to create two parcels with separate identities, including one volume with irregular geometry and other volume of regular geometry that communicate through a glass hallway. The surrounding outdoors relate to the terrain, landscape and vegetation.”
Located near the sea in Algrave, Vilhena decided to speak a contemporary language through the form of the home, with references to the vernacular of algarve architecture, then carry that language into the interiors. The interiors of the home are mostly white, with cool grey concrete ceilings. The interior rooms happily fit into the slanted ceilings, as bookshelves and cabinetry take unusual form to tie into the sculptural architecture!
For this residence, light, transparency and continued spacial flow was vital. Privacy was also a concern since the residence is located in a tight urban location. The residence is located in the Bucktown neighborhood in Chicago. The residence is for a young urban couple who aspire to a modern and minimalistic aesthetic design. They were looking for a solution that provided a light filled urban retreat that could display their collection of modern furnishings and large art prints. The solution was to create open, fluid interior spaces, both horizontally and vertically and then to wrap it all in white masonry. This white veil is scored with window bands that allow abundant natural light, yet because of strategic locating, provide privacy and eliminate the need for window treatments towards the street. The white interior is strengthened by the sharp contrast of the ebony stained wood flooring throughout the main levels, while the lower level further emphasizes the white finishes with the use of a reflective pure white epoxy coated floor. The white and black backdrops serve well in making the furnishings and artwork stand out as well as the subtle orange theme throughout the residence. The light filled white interiors are further strengthened by the use of reflective glass railings and stair panels. The main central steel stairs is clad in glass, both clear and opaque to again maintain privacy but allow natural light. The flowing and light filled interiors are carried to the two surrounding exterior landscapes, blurring the boundaries between interior and exterior by carving out urban gardens which are rare in the city.
We like the virtue of architecture which makes possible constructing a house on air, walking on water… An abrupt plot of land overlooking the sea, where what is best is to do nothing. It invites to stay. A piece that respects the land’s natural contour is set in it. Above, a shadow, the house itself, looking calmly at the Mediterranean. Under the sun, the swimming-pool brings us closer to the sea, it becomes a quiet cove. In the inflection point, the stairway proposes a evocative path, a garden in the basement…
Due to the steepness of the plot and the desire to contain the house in just one level, a three-dimensional structure of reinforced concrete slabs and screens adapting to the plot’s topography was chosen, thus minimizing the earthwork. This monolithic, stone-anchored structure generates a horizontal platform from the accessing level, where the house itself is located. The swimming-pool is placed on a lower level, on an already flat area of the site. The concrete structure is insulated from the outside and then covered by a flexible and smooth white lime stucco. The rest of materials, walls, pavements, the gravel on the roof… all maintain the same colour, respecting the traditional architecture of the area, emphasizing it and simultaneously underlining the unity of the house.
House on the Cliff, Calpe, Alicante, Spain, by Fran Silvestre Arquitectos
On a desert site of undisturbed native vegetation, the modest retreat is defined by an 8-foot-high concrete wall that supports a steel roof structure and encloses two courtyards. Everything inside the containment wall functions as living space, making it a 2,900-square-foot, rather than a 730-square-foot (of climate-controlled area), house. In the traditional post-and-beam model, glass expanses blur the boundary between landscape and building. In contrast, this retreat is about the walled enclosure marking the building as volume and mass. What is adapted from mid-century design is the logic and clarity of an unconventional residential structural system — and the virtue of supreme indoor-outdoor living on a small scale.
Desert House, Palm Springs, California, by Jim Jennings Architecture
The Wiley residence in New Canaan, Connecticut, designed by Philip Johnson in 1952–53, was purchased with the intention of restoring the residence and adding a new pool house, private gallery, and garage. The architect emphasized respecting the integrity of the property by carefully integrating new structures into the site so that they complement and defer to the original house. The concrete volumes of the pool house and garage were minimized by inserting them into the hillside. All new exterior and restoration materials were reviewed and selected on site to harmonize with the existing residence. The minimalist art gallery was constructed on the foundation of a 19th-century barn and designed with a traditional gabled roof form (a portion of the lower level houses the site’s central mechanical plant). The Gallery’s solid black massing creates a contemporary backdrop for Johnson’s transparent house.The interior is designed to be bright, simple, and clean, acting as backdrop for the art. All lighting is adjustable to best emphasize the art; ventilation is provided by linear diffusers integrated into nearly invisible reveals at the gable ends.
Locating the new pool house was challenging: it required consideration of the preexisting relationships of barn, pool, landscaping, and house. The design aligns the submerged pool house with an existing retaining wall: pool, pool house, barn, and residence form a new nucleus for the site. Acting as gatehouse, a new garage marks the entrance to the estate. The height of the new pool house and the garage follows the height set by the barn foundation walls and the base of the Wiley residence.
Embracing the challenge of a relatively tight inner suburban location, and restrictive building envelope, the designers worked closely with the client to rationalise their “wish list” into a concise and deliverable brief. The outcome is a dramatic architectural statement, which has already demonstrated the flexibility to adapt to the constantly changing lives of the family it was designed for.
The project is realised through a series of simple intersecting and overlapping rectangular forms. Each “box” represents a distinct portion of the overall program. The forms of the building have been carefully articulated as both screening devices for privacy, and elements that frame and define views. The robust external cladding that changes appearance significantly in different weather and lighting conditions, gives way to a sophisticated, warm and welcoming interior, filled with natural light, tall ceilings, double height voids and sensuous materials. Extensive use and clever placement of high performance double glazing draws light into every room. The definition of interior and exterior is distorted, with banks of operable louvres and huge sliding glass panels presenting the family with the ability to engage directly with the outside environment, or to close the place down completely, dependant on the variable Melbourne climate.
The Good House, Sandringham, Victoria, Australia, by Designer, for Crone Partners, Photography © Derek Swalwell & Peter Clarke