I’ve decided that I’m mildly obsessed with contemporary residential architecture, and on multiple levels. The Field presents ample evidence of this obsession, but every now and then a project comes along that is beyond amazing and, to my chagrin, gets no attention. So here are just a few absolutely outstanding house projects, in no particular order, that deserve a ton of praise and attention. Also I sense that follow up posts about a couple of the firms featured here are inevitable, so keep an eye out for that.
Studio Mumbai: Belavali House, Maharashtra, India
This house is stunningly simple as well as stunningly photogenic. Belavali House was envisioned as a “pavilion in the garden” of a rice plantation. Its functions are organized along single, graphically continuous concrete wall, sectionally situated on various levels—presumably according to program. But it is the simple, elegant use of materials (wood and concrete with a steel structure) and openness to its stunning surroundings that initially grabbed me. The wood and steel façade is operable, facilitating various indoor conditions based on climate or time of day, and obvious for the purpose of casting gorgeous patterns across the interior spaces and onto the pigmented concrete interior walls. Something that is very apparent in the photographs of this house (taken my Studio Mumbai’s Helen Benet) is the privacy and intimacy projected onto its natural surroundings. The house’s linearity and the continuity of the concrete wall would read like a closed, private side, sheltering side, and a scenic side. But the photos evince an incorporation of its surroundings, of the outside, into the interior, a division that is already blurred through the louvered and slightly “undulating” glass wall. This house is materially and situationally brilliant, as are many of this firm’s residences.
Pezo von Ellrichshausen: Guna House, Llacolén, Chile
Guna House is a concrete prism from a different world, situated on a hill between a forest and a lagoon. The upper residential block is a 20m square, floating above a core, measuring 8.5m square, that looks like it was punched out of the upper level, thereby making a negative square courtyard on the upper level. The upper level, suspended above the landscape, is effectively a piano nobile, astoundingly severe and regular in its organization. Interior spaces are spaced along an interior hall and apparently (from the plan) are arranged in situ, making the diagram a surprisingly old school one. (old school as in renaissance palace) The regularity of the plan is enforced with a lining up of windows and skylights and, for lack of a better word, floorlights. The courtyard is accessed by a bizarre stair eroded from the base, abstracted like something Scarpa would have made. In short, this is an absurdly mature, thoughtful, rich piece of architecture whose mastery is legible in plan, section, diagram, and image. The same could be said of many of Pezo von Ellrichshausen’s portfolio, which includes houses and fascinating pavilions.
Shatotto: Mamun Residence, Chittagong, Bangladesh
This house, like most of Shatotto’s projects, poetically integrates living and nature, or living and a sense of contained, private oasis. Mamun Residence is a concrete shell in an area of Chittagong populated by concrete shells, but it’s volumetric surfaces shelter a deep and well planted interior well containing verdant spaces an a pool. Tropical Chittagong allows for year round indoor-outdoor exchanges, and Mamun’s overhangs, passages, and light/plant wells provide plenty of that. But as a diagram it is fascinating, and as an executed material construction it is elegant and borderline whimsical. The illusion of a private incorporation of nature glimpsed in the photos of Belavali House (above) is even stronger, almost even real, but is more vital in the construction of an escape from the immanently present concrete urban fabric.
Tense Architecture Network: Residence in Megara, Greece
This project is bizarre in its form and plan but is immediately fascinating. Two of this triangular residence’s sides are nearly solid concrete—an external, mostly detached wall removed from various programmatic volumes within like a guarding boundary, creating open air courtyards and corridors, perforated for minimal vertical windows. Given its primal setting between an arid plain and mountain, the guarding wall evokes a kind of prehistoric sheltering mechanism evident in sub-Saharan, prehistoric village remains. The interior organization is equally fascinating, playing a game of private and public spaces, folding indoor and outdoor areas. The terminus of the triangle opens to a wide scenic wall of glass looking onto the mountain with a formal movement in concrete that reminds me of a movie screen and a slight bit of Ronchamp (from interior photographs, I mean). This residence is unnerving in its almost violent simplicity, and I think it is a truly inspiring piece of contemporary architecture, residential or otherwise.
Check out The Field for a (usually) daily feed of good contemporary design work.