Walk down any suburban street, and you can probably imagine the general design of almost all of the houses. We are familiar with conventional houses and absorb the clues their facades reveal — a tall, vertical window possibly reveals the stairs; a little window with opaque glass indicates a bathroom; a huge window at street level usually opens into a family room.
However, what if the house has an unconventional appearance, and the recognizable components which compose the facade aren’t really where we expect them to be? In such cases a first read of modern houses can puzzle initially, but if we stop and take a closer look, we might have the ability to interpret what shaped it. An understanding of the historical, architectural or cultural heritage may also notify us a bit. However one thing for sure is that modern houses rarely reveal their secrets at a glance.
We have a larger choice of materials and building methods than ever before. Do we choose to use them as a skin-like appliqué to decorate our houses? Or do we attempt to use them in innovative methods can help to lower our reliance on our ever-diminishing natural resources? How we respond to this query will play a substantial part in shaping the outside design of our houses as we proceed in the future.
Here we’ll look at some very different house facades. This ideabook doesn’t attempt to cover the plethora of possibilities, but it might provide insights on a few of the influences that might shape the next generation of modern homes.
Blurring the Line Between Inside and Out
The Rietveld Schröder House, Utrecht (1924), Gerrit Rietveld. This end-of-terrace house was designed to get Truus Schröder-Schräder. It makes no effort to relate to its redbrick neighbors. Compared to them, its facades read as a collage of lines and planes which blur the distinction between the inside and outside.
This house design became the architectural manifesto of this De Stijl movement. Were Schröder’s neighbors confused, confused or appalled by this subjective youthful upstart?
More concerning the Rietveld Schröder House
Case Study House, Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles (1949), Ray and Charles Eames. A radical design at the time it was built, this home is still delightfully new looking 60 decades later. The architects were concerned about minimizing the effect of house on the site they did an entire redesign. The house is composed of two linear steel-framed buildings, separated by outdoor area and tucked into the hillside.
The Eames also aimed to maximize quantity with minimal materials. The two-story black steel-framed facade is broken down into geometric panels, either infilled with flat solid or glazing, in white or primary colours.
More about the Case Study House
Weighing Privacy and Community
Rainy Sunny, Toyko (2008), Masahiro Harada. This house in suburban Japan was severely restricted by its little plot size. It seems to turn it back on the street by presenting an unwelcome solid facade. How would this building be obtained on your street?
On passing through the road’s tough outside we arrive at a double-height wood-clad interior with expansive glass walls, opening onto a private courtyard, brightly sunlit during the day. Compared to this public face, the personal spaces are spacious, warm and welcoming.
Hojo, Toyko (2009), Akira Yoneda (Architecton). Compared to the former house, this one makes no effort to shut itself away from the outside world. All the building’s sides is translucent.
The house is a completely glazed two-story steel box, surrounded by an outer display of flat steel pipes, which hover above solid concrete basement walls.
The owner seems to be quite at ease with the openness of this house.
More about these two Tokyo houses
Princeton Architectural Press
Finding a New Efficiency
R House, Syracuse (2011), Architecture Research Office and TED by Onion Flats. These two houses share only a comparable scale and plot size with their more traditional neighbors (not seen here). Both are designed to passive-house standards (minimal energy input), which informed their streamlined form and appearance. Their north-facing entrance facades have minimal glazed openings to reduce heat loss.
Princeton Architectural Press
In contrast the yard elevations are fully glazed over two tales to optimize passive solar gain.
Some might consider the houses in this ideabook have landed from another world, with their unconventional shapes and unusual materials. Perhaps they hint at just how different and varied our houses will be in the long run, given the larger choices of materials and methods of gathering available and the need to reduce our reliance on nonrenewable materials.
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