The stark honesty of Hiroshima-born and -based 38-year-old architect Keisuke Maeda’s work is breathtaking.
The Pit House residence he designed for a client in Okayama, Japan, is a startling steel-structured 138 square-meter (1487 sq.ft.) “cave” that was built into the hillside site, yet it allows the residents 360-degree views of the surrounding area and its buildings.
This is achieved by mounting the above-the-surface part of the structure on 50 branch-like poles, creating a surround skylight for the amphitheater inside.
The Pit is one of those residences that one would absolutely want to visit, not just during the day but at night. There is an observatory-like feel to the space, yet the inside looks completely comfortable.
The structure’s boxy surface silhouette hides beautiful, snail-like curving walls, and in spite of being mostly underground, the residence is filled with light and openness.
Pit is definitely not the word we’d use to describe this wonderful structure, but perhaps that name is part of that honesty we so love about Maeda. - Tuija Seipell
It seems that every day we come across yet another beautiful example of elegant use of wood and, more often than not, the architects and designers turn out to be Aussies! Watch out Scandinavians and Japanese!
Stephen O’Connor and Annick Houle, partners at O’Connor and Houle Architecture, are responsible for designing this stunning residence in Blairgowrie on the Mornington Peninsula in Melbourne, Australia. The Pirates Bay House is an L-shaped, one-storey, 200 square-meter (2152 sq. ft.) home for the two architects themselves and their twins.
Because this is an assignment they can fully control, the partners were able to indulge in all of their favorite features, They value slow life and harmony with nature. They also emphasize the various ways in which the residents interact with their living environment – the play of light on the walls and through windows and doorways, the feel of materials and textures, the breezes and airflow throughout the building, and of course, the views and vistas at different times of the day and during different seasons.
The optimal use of sunlight, rainwater and other natural resources, and the selection of landscaping features and native plants that require minimal maintenance or watering, are all part of the owners’ quest for sustainable living. Non-toxic materials, low-energy appliances, recycled timbers were also selected for the same reason.
The result is an elegant, minimalist house that makes us think of self-sufficient Finnish summer houses with no running water, no electricity, no indoor plumbing, yet with all the pleasure. - Bill Tikos
Shrouded House is a discreetly opulent residence for a young, design-aware family of four (plus a Labrador retriever) in Toorak, considered the most prestigious neighborhood in Melbourne, Australia.
Inarc Architects was in charge of the architecture and interiors of the project, completed in February, with Allison Pye Interiors consulting on the interior design and furnishings.
The 13-room residence consists of the 850 square-meter (9,150 sq. ft) main house plus the 300 square-meter (3,330 sq. ft) basement, and the 70 square-meter (753 sq. ft) poolside cabana. The previous house and the earlier landscaping on the site were demolished. The new landscaping replaces most of the removed trees, and responds to the needs of the new house and its residents.
The project gained its moniker Shrouded House from the main feature: the effective screening of the slightly twisting and turning exterior from the adjoining properties and the street by bronze aluminum battens. Used throughout the exterior, the battens give the structure its homogenous coloring and its sense of lightness.
Bronze, steel and glass give the residence its contemporary sculptural presence yet they also allow light and clouds play on, reflect and penetrate the structure, which makes the entire building appear smaller and less monolithic. The effective use of these materials also helps connect the exterior to the interior spaces.
As the structure is also broken up into smaller-scale components, the sizeable house does not appear overly imposing or grandiose.
The interior is open, warm and light-filled with white, sandstone and oak surfaces linking the spaces together.
We love the understated way in which the designers have interpreted the family’s needs of privacy, warmth and openness through timeless, understated architecture. - Tuija Seipell
Much architectural jargon has been lavished on this Tribeca warehouse loft renovation but we just like the look of the cool, dynamic, elongated space.
This is not exactly a cozy home but its brutalist strength fits an old Manhattan warehouse well.
The Inverted Warehouse Townhouse has received numerous U.S. awards. It is the creation of Dean-Wolf Architects of New York, where architect Charles Wolf and designer Eunjeong Seong were in charge of the project.
We like the visible stairs that create a sense of lift and movement upward. We like the large surfaces of brick, steel and glass. We like the visibility between floors and from space to space that solves the potential problem of dark boxy rooms inside a windowless warehouse.
It is an impressive conversion of a loft (of 10,500 square feet) within a vast warehouse that covers the entire lot, leaving no room for outside space, garden or patio.
The main achievements of Dean-Wolf's work are cutting the roof open to let the natural light in and then using glass panels to let it shine into the dark centre of the expansive structure.
By doing this, they also created "outdoor" space inside, making the residence feel like it has a courtyard. They also created a large garden deck off the main living room.
To open up the key areas of the residence to this natural light, the main entry, via an elevator, is now on the fifth floor where public spaces and the bedrooms, playrooms and study are located. In a more typical townhouse, this "parlor" floor would be accessed through the front steps of the building. - Tuija Seipell
Aaaahhhhhh… Relaxing and breathing deeply. It may not come as a surprise to anyone that this would be our reaction this exquisitely refurbished residence, located in one of Rio de Janeiro’s most exclusive neighborhoods.
It has so many of the features we love. The structure seems to belong to the site. The indoor spaces connect with the outdoors, and the subtle surface textures and materials showcase the art and the mid-century modernist vibe of the furnishings.
There is visual room to breathe, to see. There’s space to enjoy the art, distance to appreciate the gardens.
It lacks all of the typical design-magazine photo-session set-ups; the painfully over-staged vignettes, the overly sterile designer look. There is no ego or bravado, just ease and style. This is cool without trying to be cool; dramatic without all the drama.
This is that confident, mature style that is so difficult to achieve and impossible to fake.
The white, colonial-style house has good bones to start with: unobtrusive scale and proportions, spectacular site with access to views, natural building materials.
It is also surrounded by sublime mature gardens originally designed by the late Roberto Burle Marx, the designer of the Copacabana Beach Promenade with its distinctive, black-and-white Portuguese geometric wave pattern.
But the already great structure of this house was improved by a recent, complete overhaul by Brazilian architect Gisele Taranto.
The 1,500 square-meter (about 16145 square feet) house consists of two blocks. The larger block is the main family residence, the smaller one accommodates staff rooms, laundry, garage, home theater and the spa that is directly connected with the outside pool and patio area.
Taranto retained this division of functions, but rearranged most of the rooms and built two additional spaces on top of the existing ones: a home office with a roof-top garden on top of the residence, and an additional two-bedroom apartment for staff on top of the other block.
To provide better access to the outside, new, much larger windows and sliding glass doors were created. Wooden exterior slat screens and a wide canopy all around the house were built to provide protection from the extreme sunlight and heavy rains of the area.
High-quality natural materials, such as corten steel, limestone, marble and peroba do campo wood are used throughout, but they remain as a subtle background for the art and furnishings.
In this project, Taranto collaborated once again with Brazilian lighting designer Maneco Quinderé and landscape designer Gilberto Elkins. Tuija Seipell
Bridle Road Residence in Cape Town, South Africa, is a beautiful example of a sizeable structure that does not impose itself onto the landscape at the base of Table Mountain.
The single-family residence does not look massive or overly grand, but instead exudes a classic elegance with Scandinavian/Japanese lightness, precision and scale. The proportions and division of the walls and windows — including the “picture windows” overlooking the Cape Town harbor — create an openness without the feel of exposure.
Interior and exterior spaces are integrated seamlessly, which adds to the sense of site appropriateness — that this building belongs to this site.
The architecture is by Cape Town’s Antonio Zaninovic, known for his ability to let the landscape lead the architectural solutions. The Santiago, Chile-born, Zaninovic graduated from the University of Chile’s School of Architecture in 2000 and spent five years at Steven Harris Architects in New York before establishing his own practice in 2005 with Madrid, Spain-born architect, Ana Corrochano.
The interiors of the residence are by Lucien Rees of New York City-based Rees Roberts + Partners and the landscape by David Kelly of Rees Roberts + Partners.
The building and site feature several sustainable solutions including the self-cleaning outdoor pool, natural cross-ventilation, use of earth temperature as climactic moderator, use of heat-repelling glass, and maximal use of local materials such as poured finish concrete and balau wood.
The house and its landscape won an American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) 2010 Honor Award in the Residential Design category, - Tuija Seipell
Villa Veth is a modern, customized villa, a private residence for a family of four. It is situated on a large parcel of land by a forest near the idyllic town of Hattem in the eastern part of the Netherlands.
Although the structure from some angles resembles today’s favorite and by now highly overused form – long, narrow boxes situated at odd angles – the design of this villa manages to avoid that cliché by locating only one floor above ground. The result is a classic, modern residence that functions well for the family inhabiting it, yet looks like it could have existed since the 1950s.
The ground floor and principal living area of the two-storey residence is divided into two. On one side are the master bedroom and two kids’ bedrooms -- all with separate bathrooms -- plus two small studios.
The other half –the south-facing side -- of the floor plan is taken up by an open-concept living area that includes the kitchen, dining and living spaces. One wall of the living area is constructed of frameless curved glass, enabling a seamless connection with the outdoors.
In addition, this space opens up to a vast, unadorned terrace or platform, part of which is covered and equipped with floor heating. The first floor also includes a small separate play and TV-room, a laundry and a tiny powder room.
The total floor surface area of the residence is 475 square meters (about 5,113 square feet). 123DV is an architectural firm that specializes in modern villas and supervises the entire construction process. Tuija Seipell
Predisposed as we are to loving all things that involve curving wood, natural light and minimalism, it is not surprising we fell head over heels in love with this exquisite chapel. It is made with 20 tons of unadorned wood and not a single nail or metal fitting.
It is called Capela Árvore da Vida- Seminário Conciliar de Braga — The Tree of Life Chapel at St. James Seminary in Braga, Portugal.
Built inside the existing seminary, the chapel was designed by architects António Jorge Cerejeira Fontes and André Cerejeira Fontes, with sculptural work by sculptor Asbjörn Andresen.
All three are with the Braga-based Imago, also known as Cerejeira Fontes Architects - Imago Atelier de Arquitectura e Engenharia. Andersen is a Norwegian sculptor, who lectures and works in Sweden, Norway and Portugal. The Cerejera Fontes brothers are both engineers and architects currently pursuing PhDs in Urban Planning.
Other participants in the beautiful chapel project include sculptor Manuel Rosa, painter Ilda David, the organ builder Pedro Guimarães, Italian photographer Eduardo di Micceli and civil engineer Joaquim Carvalho.
The chapel functions as an intimate prayer room, a place of quiet contemplation for those living in the seminary. Every detail of the structure and its adornments draws its origins from the Bible. Even the overall floor plan and structural solutions echo the six days of creation and the seventh day of rest.
There is an intimate and gentle connection between the outside world and the chapel itself, with an inviting, fluid pathway leading into the space, instead of a categorical doorway with a heavy, excluding door.
The structure resembles a hut, a boat, a honeycomb or a forest. The wooden slats — that also provide shelving for books — and the open ceiling allow light to play its magic at all times of the day. This is a time-lapse video of the building process here. - Tuija Seipell
All images sent to TCH exclusively by photographer Nelson Garrido.
This stunning house, perched on the hillside above Lake Lugano in Switzerland, certainly takes advantage of the views of the lake and the idyllic, historic village of Brusino Arsizio with its population just under 500.
The residence and office, designed by Milan-based architect Jacopo Mascheroni of JM Architecture for a financial consultant and her family, consists of two sections: a rounded glass pavilion and a reinforced concrete structure that is partially inserted into the mountain.
The client asked for maximum access to the views, but otherwise allowed the architect creative freedom to imagine an exceptional house that clings to the hillside.
A 3,700 square-foot glass house forms the most visible part of the residence and resembles a viewing pavilion of a major sightseeing attraction. It is an open-concept living space, with a white-walled central section that contains the kitchen, bathroom, stairway, storage and mechanical room.
The underground level houses the entry hall, three bedrooms, two baths, an office, laundry, staircase, and playroom. The bedrooms open to an inner courtyard garden.
Radiant heating, use of natural light, geothermal heat pumps and a rainwater collection system are the main environmentally friendly features of the structure.
Jacopo Mascheroni was born in 1974 in Milan and worked for Stanley Saitowitz/Natoma Architects in San Francisco and Richard Meier & Partners in New York City before founding JM Architecture in 2005.
The firm has completed several major residential projects for private clients, as well as commercial and retail spaces. - Tuija Seipell
When restoring this traditional Victorian terrace house — now known as the Skylight House — in Sydney, Australia, the architects and designers at Chenchow Little had to leave the street façade intact because the house is part of a conservation streetscape.
But the ornate, white exterior now hides a beautiful, minimalist dwelling that includes three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a new kitchen.
Flipping the typical Victorian terrace-house floor plan around, the designers placed the secondary bedrooms on the ground floor and the living rooms on the top floor. The living areas gained access to natural light via the new series of south-facing skylights, and to views across Parramatta River thanks to strategically placed windows.
Right beside the stairs leading from the relocated living room to the new kitchen, is a new central courtyard that encircles an existing mature banksia tree.
The materials and colors are minimalist and pure: raw concrete, glass, white walls and spotted gum hardwood.
The interior design by Janice Chenchow of Chenchow Little, veers toward mid-century modernist with several Scandinavian and Italian pieces including a Woodnotes’ hand-tufted wool "Sammal" carpet (Finnish for "moss") carpet in the color "Ice." We also love the lighting choices, especially "Parentesi" designed by Achille Castiglioni & Pio Manzuʻ for FLOS.
Project architects, husband and wife, Tony Chenchow and Stephanie Little, established their Sydney-based firm in 2004.
The Skylight House won the Australian Institute of Architects, NSW Chapter Award 2011 Residential Architecture Award for Alterations and Additions. - Tuija Seipell