Elemental Living - Contemporary Houses in Nature, Phaidon - House on a Stream + the Riparian House
Elemental Living presents 60 works of architecture from across the 20th and 21st centuries that have a special relationship with the natural world. The book includes a visually breathtaking selection of architect-created houses. More specifically, it features homes that have been designed to create unparalleled views of a wide variety of natural landscapes. Homes that are almost indistinguishable from the natural landscape. Or designed using materials and forms found in the natural landscape. Each house demonstrates a deep concern with the creation of unique living spaces that connect their inhabitants with the forests, mountains, lakes, deserts, and oceans that have attracted humanity for millennia.
Engagement with Site
Building is often seen as a harmful process in these types of settings. But while this is often true, there are exceptional cases. This book collects projects of this kind. House that, because of either the deferential approach of the architects and their clients or the demands from the landscape itself, engage with their surrounding in an innovative and considered way.
The first section highlights houses built within nature. It categorises structures that respond to a particular context, such as woodland, a valley, or a cliff face, by employing materials that can be extracted, harvested, or found nearby in order to blend into the landscape.
The second section is a collection of projects designed for the purpose of looking at nature. Houses in which certain elements, such as windows, terraces and platforms, are specifically positioned to command spectacular views.
The third section explores how nature itself becomes and active building element. In some house they achieve their relationship because the construction materials were taken directly from the surrounding. In others the topography of the site is a part of the structure, driving the shape of the building.
Artificial and Nature
These buildings embody a profound awareness that dwelling can be far more than simply residing. One can achieve an interaction between the artificial and natural with patience and (local) knowledge. It can minimise a structure's short-term impact on the land. It's long-term stability can ultimately be preserved. Architects who embrace nature, and specifically those who push the boundaries of what is materially possible, deserve to be celebrated. The residences gathered in "Elemental Living"- from Indian houses to Swedish cabins and even a Japanese treehouse - are defined by a certain sensibility that manifests itself, often with exceptional beauty, in an architecture that is in conversation with its context.
In India, the two houses designed by Architecture BRIO interact with the natural environment in opposing ways. The House on a Stream challenges the convention that in order to engage with the surrounding architecture should be rooted and settled. Instead this project is case entirely in concrete and floats over the steam and hovers over land. By not resting the corners of the building on the ground, it paradoxically strengthens its relationship with it. On the other hand the Riparian House plays the hide and seek with the landscape. As an amphibious creature it settles just below the hilltop while peeking across the perennial river flowing by. By virtue of they way it engages with the topography, it intends to become invisible. At the same time, from within, it thoroughly embraces the fisheye vision of the riverside.
These two houses in India feature amongst an impressive list of intriguing and bespoke homes that establish unique relationships with nature. The Swiss artist Not Vital for example carved the house "NotOna" directly from an enormous white marble outcrop on the edge of the General Carrera Lake in Chile. The house is made in one continuous material element. Olson Kundig designed the Pierre house as a retreat securely positioned within the landscape. The simple design uses the rocky geography as an aggregate to form the walls of the house. The Glass House by Philip Johnson and the House in Moledo by Eduardo Souto de Moura and Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright are of course masterpieces. These are the houses that have spearheaded architecture's search for a renewed relationship with the natural world.