Credit: Sama Jim Canzian & Robert Lista/D'Arcy Jones Architects
7 homes that blend perfectly with nature
October 5, 2020 is World Architecture Day. To celebrate, CNN Style is revisiting coverage that spotlights recent developments in building from around the world. The following is an edited excerpt of the book "Solace in Nature: Homes that blend with the landscape." The introduction was written by architect Robert Swatt, while the entries were compiled by editor Jeanette Wall.
Homes that blend with their surroundings emphasize the symbiotic, poetic relationship of architecture and nature.
Some merge with the land through seamless indoor-outdoor connections, while others are pavilions that hover above ground. Some are sheathed in wood boards, while others are clad in stone, drawing inspiration from their settings. Rooflines are flat, sloped, curved and as diverse as the topography.
Here are seven projects from around the world that both celebrate places to nestle in and contemplate the beauty of their extraordinary sites. They reveal how our own relationship to nature can be as profound as our connection to home.
Crescent H by CLB Architects, Wyoming, United States
This large house is situated atop a gently sloping knoll in northwest Wyoming. The house takes full advantage of panoramic views of the Teton mountain range, and a framed view of its tallest peak, Grand Teton, through an opening in the trees.
A carefully chosen, yet reductive, color palette creates simplicity and timelessness while enhancing the connection to its environment. Sedimentary stone from a regional quarry mimics the surrounding mountain ranges and rock formations. Cedar siding breaks up the stone pattern and adds warmth and texture to the exterior. The same stone reappears on chimneys that define the public spaces within the pavilion.
Wave House by Seppo Mantyla Architecture, Mikkeli, Finland
Wave House was originally designed for a sloping plot in Moscow but Architect Seppo Mantyla was contacted to see if the design would work on a new plot in Finland.
While curved shapes like this have been used in public buildings, it proved to be demanding to adapt it to a residential context. The solution was to construct the roof using curved steel beams with wooden beams between them.
The structure itself is a log house, made from spruce. The walls, however, are made out of glass, and afford amazing views toward the lake. The use of glass also opens up the house, creating an inviting view of the natural world outside.
Glass Villa by Mecanoo, Lechlade, United Kingdom
The guiding design principle for architecture firm Mecanoo was to create a house that combines transparency with sustainability, forging a strong relationship between the villa and the landscape.
The villa is situated in a green oasis of trees and plants that hide the house from view. Terraces on two different levels connect the villa to both the land and the water, anchoring the house in nature and giving it a welcoming presence. Glass corner windows in the living room, kitchen, and other rooms make the residents feel like they live on the water.
From the roof terrace, one can enjoy idyllic views as if floating quietly over the expanse of the lake.
Two Halves by Moloney Architects, Victoria, Australia
Named for its split monolithic form, Two Halves is distinguished by two pavilions that appear to stand alone, but in fact live hand-in-hand.
The design simultaneously divides and connects, separating the "public" open-plan living zone from the privacy and quiet seclusion of the neighboring bedrooms and bathrooms. The two pavilions essentially distinguish the functions of the house, splitting the public and private zones to give the main living spaces the best views and access to natural light.
Where the public zones are open-plan and outward facing, the more private areas are designed to be compartmentalized.
Half Tree House by Jacobschang Architecture, New York, United States
This remote, off-the-grid getaway is located on a steep slope surrounded by forest. The topography presented a difficult challenge, and in the end, it was the trees that gave their support, taking half the weight of the cabin. Rather than disturb the ground with large footings and retaining walls, the structure is anchored at the top upslope corners, while the remaining weight is distributed to two existing trees.
To minimize maintenance and to enable the exterior to withstand long, wet winters, the cladding boards were treated using traditional Scandinavian pine-tar. The interior is simple, but provides a more than satisfactory level of comfort, and is almost Nordic in its styling. Heat comes from an efficient wood stove while a portable generator provides a backup.
Okada Marshall House by D'Arcy Jones Architects, British Columbia, Canada
The windows and doors of this craggy H-shaped house (also pictured top) point toward either ancient moss-covered rocks or the Pacific Ocean, creating lively contrasts as one moves through the house.
The form of the house is quiet and solid, belying its inner complexity and spatial variety. The exterior is clad in "shou-sugi ban," the Japanese technique of charring wood, which needs no maintenance and will never rot: perfect for the dampest regions of British Columbia.
Even in low light on a stormy day, the outdoors will be brighter than the property's dark tiles, creating a mood of optimism. The house's white interior acts as a light-bouncing foil to its brown-black exterior. Sculpted openings, ledges, and niches abstract the site's fractured volcanic rock.
Kloof 119A by Saota, Cape Town, South Africa
Making the most of its position, the architecture of Kloof 119A is shaped to take in as many of the picturesque views (including Cape Town's iconic Table Mountain) as possible.
The house is arranged on three levels, each with its own set of gardens and courtyards. These gardens extend from the mountain surface down against the house, screening the neighboring buildings and intensifying the relationship with nature, while allowing light and air into spaces that would otherwise be dark and isolated.
In line with this, the exterior is dark, in order to break down the mass of the building, pushing it into the background. Internally, colors are muted and the use of a washed oak gives the spaces warmth.
"Solace in Nature: Homes that blend with the landscape," by Images Publishing, is available now.
This article originally published in September 2020.