Some of the world’s most intriguing houses don’t even look like houses at all. In new coffee table book Houses: Extraordinary Living, 400 of the world’s most innovative houses are documented and celebrated, ranging from a California desert retreat to a a hidden house in a Swedish forest.
The new book explores the world’s most intriguing and influential architect-designed houses since the early 20th century, covers a range of different styles including Modernism, Postmodernism, Brutalism, Regionalism, Deconstructivism, and International Style. It covers locations from Australia and Japan to Los Angeles, New York and Connecticut, with works from famous 20th-century architects such as Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer as well as more contemporary architects like Tadao Ando, Grafton and Steven Holl.
Whether built into the side of a mountain or in an arresting shape, the houses are all boundary-pushing and forward-thinking in their approach.
Here are ten of our favourites…
1. TILL HOUSE, CHILE
Cut into a deep shelf on a Chilean coastal landscape in Navidad, this small weekend shelter built for a couple on a coastline of cliffs is surrounded on three sides by the roaring Pacific Ocean. Invisible from the road, its open-plan terrace is perfect for lounging with panoramic views, while the rest of the space is for sleeping and eating.
Individual rooms are sectioned off with shelving units to provide privacy, and the entire roof is a massive open deck which is reached by the cliffside walkway. If that wasn’t enough for relaxation, there is also a wooden jacuzzi called a cuba, where the water is warmed with a fire.
2. GRAHAM HOUSE
Architect Arthur Erickson was best known for joining man-made structures with their environments together in perfect balance. He built the Graham House, which consisted of a series of gradually descending levels, into a steep cliff. The house is made from wood and glass and it sits over a creek. It was a milestone for Canadian architecture when it was designed, but it was sadly torn down in 2007.
3. BUBBLE PALACE
This sprawling, 13,000-square-foot complex looks like an enormous waterpark on the French Riviera. It’s composed of taupe bulbs that open to reveal windows, entryways, or waterfalls. Designed by Hungarian architect Antti Lovag, the Palais Bulles was inspired by the concept that architecture could get closer to nature and the human body by banning straight lines and right angles. He created the form organically, deciding on where to place the openings based on his experience with the terrain.
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4. HOUSE IN ITSUURA
This single-storey angled house in Japan is perched on two organically formed pillars, which allow the rest of the structure to be embedded in the hill. The interiors are timber-clad with wood from the local area, and the facade features external angled slats that regulate temperature, let in light and provide privacy.
Living spaces are in the longer wing of the structure, while the shorter wing has spaces for sleeping. Architects Life Style Koubou planted 60 trees to help regenerate the area, and over time it’s hoped the dwelling will become more connected to its natural surroundings as the wood takes on a weathered appearance.
5. EDGELAND HOUSE
Designed by Bercy Chen Studio, this house’s slanted roof was covered in turf to disguise the structure from the street, and to keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The lack of any connecting hallway between the living and sleeping quarters is intentional – encouraging its owners to spend more time outside.
6. MALATOR HOUSE
Converted from old military barracks by Future Systems husband-and-wife architects Jan Kaplický and Amanda Levete, the Malator House – or the ‘Tellytubby house’, as locals have dubbed it – is a two-bedroom holiday retreat sunk into an artificial hill overlooking the Pembrokeshire coastline.
Its plywood roof is camouflaged with grass, making it practically invisible. The inside space is divided by multicoloured service pods containing the bathroom and kitchen, and the living room with a large sofa and fireplace. The only clue that there is habitation inside the hill is an elliptical window, like an eye looking out to sea.
7. CUBE HOUSE
The form of this house — angular and distorted — was dictated by the plot of land’s steepness. Triangular extensions of the facade appear as though they’re unfolding from the house, creating a seamless link between structure and nature.
8. A HOUSE FOR ESSEX
Designed as a chapel for artist Grayson Perry, this eccentric house also serves as a shrine to the county of Essex. Adorned with more than 2,000 tiles on the exterior as well as sculptures on the golden roof — all designed by Perry himself — the structure is inspired by Russian stave churches. From front to back the window size increases and seems to ‘grow’ with the hill’s downward slope.
9. BAKKAFLOT 1, ICELAND
Designed by Högna Sigurðardóttir in 1963, becoming the first woman to design a building in a professional capacity in Iceland, this Brutalist structure dissolves into the landscape, leaving just the roof visible.
The simple modern turf hut was designed for a family of six in a suburban street south of Reykjavík. The architect incorporated three mounds to protect the low house from the harsh Icelandic elements. The house is made of exposed concrete using Brutalist techniques, as is much of the furniture – such as the sofa and the bathtub – creating a connection between inside and out.
10. SIPEKI BALAS VILLA, BUDAPEST
Built in 1905, the Sipeki Balas Villa in Budapest now serves as the headquarters for Hungarian Federation of the Blind and Partially Sighted.