The Syncline house was designed as a place of solitude for a professional couple by architecture studio Arch11, located near Boulder, Colorado. Situated at the fold between the Rocky Mountain foothills and the Great Plains, the house mediates horizons and peaks, city and alpine meadows. Conceived as a frame for viewing the landscape, Arch11 meticulously modeled the residence within the site to ensure that planes of glass capture ridgetop views while respecting the city’s height restrictions.
A Pre-Paleozoic fold creates a distinction between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountain Foothills. Geologically referred to as a syncline, a crease caused by uplift of an ancient sea bed, the fold distinguishes the inhabited plains from mountain park space. The upward plane of the fold presents a landscape described and observed moving sectionally through the house.
The wedge shaped site was bound by numerous restrictive land use limitations: a wetland buffer, height restrictions, a solar access restriction, and multiple setback and easement boundary requirements. A three-dimensional computer model was developed describing the limits of the buildable envelope.
The project was conceived as a threshold between the city and the mountain park. The client, an entrepreneurial and professional rock climbing couple, requested the house to be “a place where town life can be left behind.” The house is a threshold between both the cultural and geologic creases: one between the domestic and the feral, the other between horizontal and vertical. Through a domestic grove of flowering trees, a solid wood wall, broken only by a perpendicular stone wall, opens to the house interior. Once inside, the stone wall becomes a thickened poche of mechanical and service elements leading through to the west wall of the house, a glazed wall framing the mountain parks.
The western wall phenomenally erodes, revealing the landscape with varying degrees of openness. At the entry, framed apertures provide controlled vignettes of the landscape from foreground meadow to high ground cliffs. As the entry opens to the living spaces the apertures transform in scale to reveal the expansive landscape in its entirety. At the southwest corner thirty feet of glass retracts into the walls, dissolving the boundary between the domestic and the wild; the living spaces are then bounded only by the uplifted cliffs beyond. Reciprocally, the native meadow to the west folds onto the garage roof providing easy outdoor access for visiting guests in the house’s guest suite.
A simple stair cantilevers from the stone wall. Climbing the stairs, the foreground, mid range, and ridge views are sequentially revealed. Experientially scissoring into the landscape and back into the house the stairs connect the mountain park with the house. The west wall of glazing extends the western room boundaries to the wall of rock and meadows beyond. The east wall remains closed, allowing only privileged, controlled views and light from the clerestory above.
Working within some of the strictest energy performance codes in the country, the house is designed to be self sustained utilizing a ground loop heat exchange system that taps into the very bedrock seen at the distant ridge. A ten kilovolt photo-voltaic electrical system powers pumps, compressors and the domestic electrical needs.
To support an envelope comprised of 50% glazing, a structural steel frame is used in place of traditional stick framing throughout the home. The western facade was challenged by height and wind exposure. The thickened wall is a steel brace frame that incorporates vertical vierendeel trusses to resist the 120 mile per hour winds coming down out of the mountains. Additionally, it accommodates the primary vertical mechanical chases.
Built with innovative renewable energy systems and materials crafted to last centuries, the house is a model of cutting-edge sustainable design and attains a LEED gold certification. Roof gardens allow the land to literally envelop the house, and expansive, retracting glass walls provide full views of the Flatirons to the west while connecting interiors with outdoor rooms. Executed with uncompromising detail, surfaces meet with quiet precision, creating a serene background for the landscape and mountains beyond.
Photos: Courtesy of Arch11
House in Zabrze showcases modern and bright interiors, designed for a family of four by Widawscy Studio Architektury, located in Zabrze, Poland. The clients wanted an open and airy interior, with all other design issues being relied upon by the architect to take care of. Consequently, this has resulted in good cooperation and the creation of the present interior.
Living area (kitchen, dining room, living room) is left open, creating one, but well-ordered space. The interior is dominated by whites and grays tones connected with structure of natural oak. Uniform colors of the interior is highlighted by the diversity of white surface textures: glossy fronts of furniture, mat walls, linen fabric and structural plate. The living room is dominated by graphite sofa and together with white armchairs Barcelona project Mies van der Rohe, perfectly suited to the minimalist character of the interior.
The centerpiece of the house is a simple block of double-sided fireplace covered with graphite, natural stone. Dining space is highlighted by a white, large lamp hanging over veneered table surrounded by chairs design Verner Panton. Large table used in the project also serves as a pool table, creating a space for evening games. The bright colors and minimalist character of the interior has been kept in every space of the house.
Both – the bedroom and the bathroom is dominated by white, which visually expands the space and the variety of white structures in conjunction with veneered surfaces adds a modern expression to the interior. Special and distinctive space in the house is a playroom. Unlike the other rooms is filled with color accents.
Photos: Courtesy of Widawscy Studio Architektury
Casa ML is a three story single family residence designed for open and casual living by Gantous Arquitectos, located in Mexico City, Mexico.
Intense Volume Veiled In Light
A narrow, dense lot called for design solutions that supported the owners’ open, casual lifestyle at the same time it created a dramatic, luxurious and intensely built space.
The single family residential structure rises three levels, straight up, to afford city views; yet spaces flow openly between a formal living room, the inviting family area and the all-out glamor of the dramatic central staircase.
Walls assert impose sculptural volume in steel, glass, stone and colored concrete, yet create light and delicacy that veil the structure’s intense efficiency and multi-level volume.
Photos: Michael Calderwood
One Beacon Court is a modern Central Park Condo, located in one of Manhattan’s most luxurious condominium residences, the Bloomberg Tower. Designed by local interior designer and painter, Tara Benet, the condo offers sweeping views of New York City. With large expanses of windows, the mostly white interiors are flooded with natural light, giving an open and airy feel. Benet worked with art advisor Kati Lovaas to fill the space with emerging art that pops against the white walls.
Pairing a calacatta marble dining table with leather chairs from Poliform on top of a neutral rug from ABC Carpet & Home creates a neutral environment for the artwork that’s featured in the dining room. The large green “X” is from Philippe Decrauzat and the iron sculpture that hangs is by Valentin Carron, both of which add visual interest into the space.
The white sofa is accented with dark gray and black pillows providing a nice contrast. The dark wood floors also set the tone for the entire apartment making white the perfect choice for the walls and ceilings.
The massive modular book shelf, also from Poliform, features gray cubbies helping to break up the white.
The living room is complete with the placement of an Arco lamp from Flos.
The painting is by Gardar Eide Einarsson and the white marble credenza below is from Cassina.
In the kitchen, a Knoll Saarinen dining table is partnered with Cassina Philippe Starck 245 Caprice chairs.
Photos: Marili Forastieri
The Squam Residence is a custom family home recently completed by J. Brown Builders, located on Nantucket, an island 30 miles south of Cape Cod, in the American state of Massachusetts. Nantucket is at once town and country, and one of the greatest gifts it gives us is the reminder that one need not always escape completely from the urban idea to find rest and ease. Nantucket island has a set of fairly rigid design controls. You cannot build as you please on Nantucket; houses must have pitched roofs, not flat ones, and they must be covered in unpainted shingles, which weather to a soft gray once they have survived their first Nantucket winter. The rules do not require that contemporary architecture precisely duplicate the old cottages that make up the fabric of Nantucket town and the smaller settlements scattered across the 25 square miles of the island, but they clearly demand a sympathy for the island’s older architecture.
The Squam Residence carries over this traditional exterior architecture, but gives a more modern approach to it’s stunning interiors. The luxurious home is built for entertaining family and friends, with wonderful seating arrangements, a spacious kitchen open to bright living and dining areas and sliding glass doors that brings the outdoors in. Stepping out to the exterior of the home, there is a fabulous landscape surrounding the residence, offering an incredible pool with plenty of patio space and furnishings for entertaining.
Photos: Jeffrey Allen Photography
Lycabettus Penthouse is a stunning example of meticulous interior styling, the collaboration between Sotos Mallas and Aaron Ritenourwas of esé studio, located in Athens, Greece. Embracing wood as main design material, the apartment is designed in earthy hues, clean lines and a pleasant and striking atmosphere. Luminous, nature-oriented and artistically crafted, this penthouse is a unique mix of modern and vintage.
The aim of the architects was to unite the space and create a holistic and comfortable interior. The architects decided to create a space inspired by the best examples of Japanese style. They used neutral color palette – warm grey walls, oak wooden floor, black to accentuate the fireplace, cement, white lacquer. Little decoration details such as colorful pillows with interesting prints, red clock and red lamp added life into the space. The furniture is a mix of Scandinavian with flea market finds.
Thayer House is a simple, yet elegant home that incorporates outdoor living, designed by Neumann Mendro Andrulaitis Architects, located in Montecito, California. The residence offers an open floor plan that allows for both comfortable family living and entertaining. Over the years many of the firm’s clients have preferred project designs that have tended to be larger, more detailed and more elaborate. The owner’s vision was something much simpler. For this home design they went back to the basics.
We went with what is essential and needed for modern living. Nothing extra, over the top, or overdone. The resulting size, scale and the understated feel of the home is special. It has everything that is essential for modern living, but it also has a Zen-like simplicity and elegance. There is definitely something to be said for going back to the basics and focusing on the essentials.
The design throughout the home is termed as soft modernism, carried out by local interior designer, Micholyn Brown. She has a great sensibility and everything she does is refined and elegant. But unlike many modern interior designs, it is also natural, tactile, and soft around the edges.
Transfused throughout her interiors and the building design. The result is elegant, modern, yet comfortable living spaces. You don’t feel like you’re living in a precious hard-edged glass house and that your life is dictated by the design. It is rather the opposite; the house is the perfect backdrop for comfortable elegant modern living and entertaining. And the owner’s outstanding taste in design and artwork certainly added to the process and final design.
The great room design is accommodating for both living and entertaining. The size, scale, furnishings and amenities of the space are ideal, making it comfortable for the owner when he is alone and when family is visiting.
The space also works well for larger gatherings and entertaining. With the flow of the space, the kitchen, dining, living room arrangement, the way the room opens up seamlessly to the north and south courtyards, the house can comfortably accommodate entertaining on a grand scale.
The team started with the idea of a courtyard design. The house embraces the site with north and south courtyards. Large door and windows open directly onto the landscape, the fountain pool, and the distant mountain views. It is quintessential California indoor-outdoor living.
The indoor/outdoor relationship is key. The owner had lived in the Hedgerow neighborhood for years and had never noticed the quiet property behind the large hedge. To his credit, he wanted to preserve that secluded hedgerow feel and have the house design take advantage of and build upon the beautiful landscape.
General contractor Rich Coffin was involved from the beginning of the design process. The architects worked closely with him, tailoring the design to meet the homeowner’s budget and to build the home in the most efficient cost-effective way possible. The house was constructed in only six months, on budget, with practically no changes and no compromises in quality.
Photos: Ciro Coelho Photography
NR2 House is a modern single family residence completed in 2012 by Roberto Burneo Arquitectos, located in Balcon de Valle, Quito Canton, Ecuador. Situated in a private development in the valley of Cumbaya, the NR2 House responds to the natural ground, to a stunning landscape and to the project requirements. To the east you can find the Los Andes Mountain, while to the west the private areas of entertainment are located.
At the top level of the 9,730 square foot (904 square meters) house you can find the bedrooms and common areas such as the kitchen, dining room and entertainment areas. On the lower level, at street level, you find the service areas including the parking lot.
We propose transparency, volumetric composition, and materiality as design strategies. In order to use the privileged view of the landscape, several perspectives from different areas of the house are handled. Also, the front of the house meets the street in an unobtrusive way.
Materials such as concrete and burnished metal are used in the construction of the house. The kitchen and dining area are located in the northern part. The living room, gym and bedrooms, are unified by a pergola of laminated wood, which covers great part with the terrace, creating a gathering space that brings together the private, social, and pool area.
The relationship between interior and exterior spaces is based on the controlled management of natural light. The volume of the spaces causes light contrast and this occurs because the dim light travels through the house.
Photos: Sebastián Crespo Camacho
Cliff House is a sleek modern dwelling that has been designed by Dualchas Architects, located in Galtrigill, Isle of Skye, Highland, United Kingdom. The site is located in North West Skye, overlooking Loch Dunvegan. It manifests itself as a contradiction: far reaching views to the North East and harsh winds from the South West. The constant is the horizon.
An existing ruin marks the entrance situation of the croft, while the edge of the cliff locates the dwelling on its site high above the water’s edge, giving the connecting path a distinguished end.
In order to address the site conditions, the building consists of two volumes; one closed, the other open. The first contains all serving functions to support the main open rooms. Together a place is created that provides shelter and privacy whilst maintaining focus on its surroundings.
The 1,237 square foot (115 square meters) building is first seen from the curved path as a wall in front of the dominant background. As the path unfolds and cuts deeper into the landscape, this relationship changes, with the building becoming the dominant focal point. This suspense is released upon entry. One wall of the main open volume is omitted and the visitor stands in front of a fully glazed screen atop of the cliff. The topography of the site allows the surrounding landscape to be experienced as a panorama. The built space ends with the horizon.
On the interior, materials are omitted to give dominance to the characteristics of the site acting as a gallery filled with the objects and memories the client surrounds themselves with.
While the typology of the building is specific to its surroundings, it was necessary to detail its appearance in a language that is commonly understood. Both the location and function of the two volumes are confirmed by the use of material. Caithness stone for the retaining wall and larch for the open plan main rooms. The height and hue of the horizontally laid courses correspond and merge both volumes into one building. The continuous horizontal plane of the polished concrete floor, acts to further blur the relationship between interior and exterior. As nature reclaims the site it is only the trampled grass of the path, that becomes domesticated in the landscape.
The geometry of the two volumes are not only offset in length but also in height. The voids created are fully glazed and the volumes and their location remain readable from the inside. They act as vistas, remaining open in the in-between and looking back on both the building and its setting. Additional light enters the dwelling at in its center, between the exposed rafters running the full length of the building.
Living is a decision that is also defined by the choice of place. This dwelling seeks an answer through the specific means of architecture of how the qualities that make a place can be distilled into built matter in our times. The idea of contradiction, as expressed in the elementary geometry of the building, is not only a reminder of the isolation and mystery of its location but also of the rarity of being able to live amongst the drama of the ever changing atmospheric conditions in this part of the world: the reason behind a client’s decision to purchase a plot in the first place. The dwelling can only provide the frame.
Photos: Andrew Lee
How much building is required to inhabit a place?
This stunning weekend house was designed by architecture studio SPBR, as a retreat in the city centered around a pool, garden and solarium, located in São Paulo, Brazil. Completed in 2013, this 1,969 square foot (183 square meters) modern property features a rooftop swimming pool to capture the heat of the sun, gardens to soften the hardscape and a solarium to avoid the shade from the closely-packed neighboring residences.
Dug into the air – a swimming pool in Sao Paulo. Clouds, drizzle, rain, snow or hail, in all its physical states water is related to sky. However, if we are requested to think about a [swimming] pool, our imagination automatically starts to dig into the ground. Seas, lakes, and ponds explain the reason we react in that direction: essentially, a pool feels like a piece of a lake. It makes sense, the image corresponds to the word, water that rests smoothly on the ground. Water defines the surface.
But if I mention a specific type of pool, a water tank or a water tower, we first imagine an elevated volume of water, a pool detached from the ground level. In this case, hydrostatic pressure is a requirement to fulfill pipes, to supply water. Water level holds a potential possibility.
While walking on the ground,we could ask: where is the surface? In the specific sense of the word, surface has no layers or thickness. However, if one walks in a city like São Paulo [or New York], the ground level does not correspond to the surface anymore. There are some pieces of the ground that haven’t been touched by the sunlight for decades since buildings have permanently shaded them.
In this specific site, the neighborhood’s average height is defined by the zoning code: 6 m high. No side setbacks are required. The east neighbor building shades our site the entire morning until noon, when the west neighbor building starts to shade it for the whole afternoon. Therefore, if there is a pool to be built, exposed to the sunlight the whole day, it is crucial to define its surface: six meters above the ground level.
The assumption here is like to swim in a water tower and to enjoy that potential as a design possibility. One more water ‘state’ related to the sky of São Paulo.
A WEEKEND HOUSE IN THE CITY
São Paulo is a metropolis of 20 million people. It is approximately one hour from the coast. Because of severe traffic jams, its inhabitants spend hours commuting every day. On weekends, especially in the summer, hundreds of thousands drive to the beach causing jams on the roads as well.
In order to avoid being stuck in traffic during weekends, we received an unexpected but rather logical demand as a counterflow action: a weekend house in downtown São Paulo.
As an anti-FAR [floor area ratio] approach, a swimming pool, a solarium and a garden are the main elements of this project. In a properly inverted hierarchy, everything else on this program is complementary: a bedroom, a small apartment for a caretaker, and a space to cook and receive friends.
The site is very central, between an arterial avenue, Avenida Faria Lima, and a metropolitan infrastructural axis [road and railway] built on the Pinheiros river shore. Also, the site is exactly under the airport conical zone, meaning all flights coming from Rio de Janeiro fly over the site about each 7 minutes.
Pool and solarium were displayed as parallel volumes. Two columns were located in the 1 m wide gap between them. The 12 m span is faced on one side by beams supporting the pool and on the other by beams that support the solarium and also hang the floor underneath. Structurally, the mass of the pool counterweights the volume which holds inhabited spaces. In other words, water is balanced by the beach.
The ground level was kept free from any construction in order to achieve the maximum garden area ratio. As a result there are three different layers or three levels for three different moods: ground level [garden – introspective or encompassed by the site limits], apartment level [the only indoor space floating above the ground and underneath the pool], and rooftop [swimming pool and solarium, an extroverted or panoramic space].
This building and its program differs from the focus of traditional architectural projects in two ways: the metropolis becomes a possible place to stay and enjoy during the weekends and elements generally considered secondary in a big house become fundamental components.
Photos: Nelson Kon