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
Nestled into a forested slope along the eastern edge of the Case Inlet, this small retreat opens to a western view of the Olympic Mountains and the Puget Sound. Anchored by a weathered cedar clad bedroom wing, a bold concrete cantilever projects the living and dining into the dense forest and toward the view. An ipe deck slips from inside the kitchen into an open meadow to the south, separated only by large sliding glass doors extending the sense of interior directly to the outdoors. A broad flat roof hovers high above the living spaces creating the feeling that one is sitting outdoors amidst the trees. Smaller, thoughtfully placed apertures define the exterior of the bedroom volume, along with a single large opening belonging to the master bath to give the users a ritual of bathing within the forest. A balance of clean lines and natural materials, this modest retreat is a welcome sanctuary for just two or the full family.
Case Inlet Retreat, Case Inlet, Washington, USA, by mw|works architecture+design, Photography by Jeremy Bittermann
The property has direct access to the lake and offers a spectacular view of Lake Constance and the Swiss Alps. The house with its two levels, the garden level and the upper level adapts to the seasons, then a summer and a winter home. In the summer the garden is level with associated pool and guest rooms in the foreground. The upper floor is the master retreat area residents staged and the panoramic view. The upper floor is arranged around the atrium area and also allows for a variable space concept. All the walls are flexible and allow for different room situations. This gives the user the possibility of a classic floor plan up to the single-room.
Haus G12, Überlingen, Germany, by (se)arch, photography by Zooey Braun
Located in the historic district of Pied de La Plagne, in the village of Morzine (French Alps), this ancient farmhouse was singled out by the municipality as a landmark for traditional 19th century local architecture. Preserving the house overall appearance was of one of the project’s key challenges. Revisiting traditional techniques, architecture firm Jérémie Kœmpgen Architecture has converted it into a luxurious and elegant rental villa.
The idea is to move through this house between four “blocks” steady as rocks, located at each corner of the building. Each independent unit forms a suite with sleeping area and amenities. Between these four blocks, the remaining space is occupied by a succession of stacked floors at different levels in the framework. This continuum of generous space welcomes the activities shared by the inhabitants: cooking, dining, watching a film, conversing in the living room, warming up around the fire.
A uniform cladding wraps the whole farm. One of the challenges of the project was to preserve its appearance, while filtering light into the heart of the building. The traditional technique of decorative cut-outs within the wood strips was used to perform specific perforations within the planks. The design of this simple and contemporary pattern is consistent with the equipment and techniques used by the local carpenter for cutting spruce slats. These cut-outs recall the disjointed battens of the traditional barn, used for drying hay.
This new structure at the end of a long garden is a flexible design solution to a complex brief, which called for a quiet space for meditation, work and guest accommodation away from the main house. Operating within the limitations of permitted development for a garden shed, Paul Archer Design divided the building evenly into interior and exterior enclosures. The walls of the pavilion are deliberately ambiguous, separated from the roof plane by large areas of glass, while the side facing the house is cut cleverly into a series of mirrored glass slats illuminated by the sunlight from behind.
Inside, views are restricted to the boundaries of the sanctuary, editing-out the suburban landscape beyond, while double sliding doors allow the space to flow seamlessly out into the courtyard when desired. A timber storage wall incorporates numerous functions, including a fold-down desk and bed, transforming the use of the pavilion according to which component of furniture is deployed.
Located in Venice, Caliiornia, a beachside community characterized by small lots (30′ wide x 120′ wide), an eclectic mix of architecture and a unique blend of personality. While the tight square footage of the lot and an existing tree constrained the organizational possiblities of the home, the connection to community, the need for privacy and security, and interest in natural lighting offered endless possibilities
The 2,700 square foot singe family residence draws upon the site and context for inspiration by referencing a specimen pine on site and reinterpreting two other trees removed as part of the construction process.The trunk diameter of the pine is nearly five feet and the canopy over sixty feet across, so it clearly serves as the most dominant feature of the site (and nearly the entire block). Since removal was not an option for the clients, the parti of the house was organized around the tree’s location on site; near the back and virtually in the middle. This organization maximized the livable square footage of the house while minimizing the risk of damage to the tree. In reality. the plan of the house is quite simple and if left untreated could resemble any number of stuoco homes in the area. Exploring options through the exterior skin offered a dynamic expression of the client’s taste and character as well as the sculptural qualities of architecture.
Walnut Residence, Venice, Caliiornia, by Modal Design
A simple brief and programming requirements, teamed with a dramatic site characterised by a steep slope and a single tea tree, enabled the design to become an exploration into enclosing the basic rituals of domestic life within restrained building forms…the form of the building becomes driven by the clients desire to separate the public and private zones of the residence.
In stark contrast to the surrounding houses, which attempt to cancel out the sloping topography by creating a podium level at which the outdoor areas sit exposed high above ground level, our design for this house adopts a gentler strategy, with the building form spilling down the slope to terminate in a series of terraced decks.
These low lying decks aim to provide privacy from the golf course below, whilst the surrounding native landscape will shelter the outdoor areas from the harsh prevailing winds.
Varying levels of interaction and connection with the landscape, both real and perceived, drive all aspects of the design, from the channelled views of the horizon upon entry, through to the double height picture window that captures the full proportion of the tea tree, and the direct and intimate connection provided by the low level decks.
Ridge Road Residence, Mornington Peninsula Australia, by StudioFour