Nithurst Farm, UK, by Adam Richards Architects
This new build, in Sussex’s South Downs National Park, was designed by architect Adam Richards as his family home. Created in structural concrete with a thick brick skin and a black zinc roof, the house is a stepped volume with distinct arched windows that add drama and a sense of motion to the design. This outline also echoes the hills around the building. Inside, a modest entrance opens up to high ceilings that create a cathedral-like feel in the open-plan main living areas, while the bedrooms are stacked in the tall end of the house, over a more formal living room, richly decorated with artworks and large openings that look out towards the leafy surrounds. Richards’ references range from the formal architecture of John Vanbrugh to Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky.
KEY FEATURES: Stepped, brick-clad volume, arched windows, cathedral-like interiors
ARCHITECTS’ PREVIOUS WORK: Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft; Mission Hall residence, both in Sussex
Casa Terreno, Mexico, by Fernanda Canales
Set in an idyllic landscape of green, rolling hills some three hours’ drive from Mexico City, this house is a masterpiece in negotiating the relationship between architecture and nature. The architect, Fernanda Canales, worked with simple materials – brick and concrete – to create a sequence of spaces that protect the inhabitants from the harsh weather (extreme heat for some months, and continuous rain for the remainder of the year). The structure has a partially porous skin and four courtyards that mix open and covered space and help with transitions between outside and inside, public and private, main level and the roof terrace. Rough, tactile textures dominate the exterior, while the interior feels more polished, with concrete and wood-lined surfaces. A series of vaults over key rooms (bedrooms and the living area) create a strong visual identity for the project and add drama inside.
KEY FEATURES: Brick skin, vaulted roofs, flowing inside/outside relationship
ARCHITECT’S PREVIOUS WORK: Social housing, Hidalgo; Casa Bruma holiday home, Valle de Bravo; Elana Garro Cultural Centre, Mexico City (with Arquitectura 911sc)
Path House, Japan, by Artechnic
When approached by a family of five to design its new home in Setagaya-Ku, Tokyo’s most densely populated ward, the Japanese architecture firm Artechnic wanted to explore the duality between nature and the man-made. The result is Path House, inspired by rocky mountain trails and the jagged beauty of the polygonal black basalt columns created by rapidly cooling lava in the Izu peninsula of Honshu island. The house is made of stucco-finished black concrete installed around the U-shaped site to form a labyrinthine complex of angular volumes. The material helps retain heat during the night when the outside temperature drops. Multiple planting areas are built into the site and greenery is visible at every turn of the house’s three levels and rooftop terrace. Artechnic designed and produced every internal element, from walnut flooring and cabinetry to bespoke furniture designs.
KEY FEATURES: Geological inspiration, black concrete, internal planting, labyrinthine interior
ARCHITECTS’ PREVIOUS WORK: Shell villa, Kitasaku; Ito Veterinary Hospital, Ito, Shizuoka; SRK residence, Tokyo
Quadrant House, Poland, by KWK Promes
KWK Promes marries architecture with technology in Quadrant House, a home with a ‘wing’ that pivots to track the sun’s progress across the sky. Named after the ancient navigational instrument that measured angles according to the stars, the all-white structure comprises two stationary rectangular blocks, one with a flat roof and one with a gabled roof. Between them, a narrow, glazed wing containing a sun lounge travels on tracks over the lawn; because it is on the move all day, the grass continues to grow beneath it. The movement is achieved via silent mechanics created by Comstal. Meanwhile, the wing’s frameless sliding windows are a result of six months of experimentation by Swiss company Sky-Frame; the bespoke motorised sliding system means the room can be completely open on two sides.
KEY FEATURES: High-tech moving wing and large, motorised sliding windows, minimalist white volumes
ARCHITECTS’ PREVIOUS WORK: Konieczny’s Ark, southern Poland; Przełomy Dialogue Centre, Szczecin; Unikato apartment block, Katowice
Treehouse, Costa Rica, by Olson Kundig
This elegant Treehouse embraces the environment and climate of Costa Rica. Built predominantly out of locally harvested teak, and open to the elements, the 2,140 sq ft structure is arranged over three floors. On the ground floor is a kitchen and dining room, with an adjoining deck and small pool; the master bedroom is on the middle floor; while the top level houses the living area, with views of the surf on Playa Hermosa. The architects went for an intentionally simple idea – the whole building is designed to operate passively, and can be completely open to the elements, courtesy of a manually operated double-layered screen. Tom Kundig likens the slatted wooden shutters to two picket-style fences that form a solid or semi-open wall, depending on how they are aligned. The house also has its own rainwater collection system.
KEY FEATURES: Indoor/outdoor relationship, timber structure, locally sourced wood
ARCHITECTS’ PREVIOUS WORK: Space Needle renovation, Seattle; Martin’s Lane Winery, Kelowna, Canada; Sol Duc Cabin, Washington