Looking at our private homes means looking at how we live. We have a growing desire (and need) for nature: architects have been designing homes with the accent on green for years now, exploring ideas in zero-impact and eco-sustainable building that are ever more efficient in energy terms.
Now that winter's arrived and we're all called on to use less energy, we've decided to showcase a selection of virtuous eco-sustainable designs. Four homes in four different corners of the world, from Chile to Canada and from Poland to Italy, to take a look at how trends vary and yet share the same goal.
We're just beyond the outskirts of the city of Warsaw, Poland, surrounded by the Kampinos Forest: standing here is Wind House, a private home shaped around trees. The building rambles among the tall trunks of the pinewood ‒ left intact ‒ which it becomes one with. Sometimes the home seems invisible, disappearing into the green of the foliage and the brown of the wood. Architect Przemek Olczyk, from the Polish studio Mobius Architekci, let nature and the dense pine forest guide his hand in the design.
During the design phase, we didn’t think too much about the shape of the building, Olczyk explained. The wooded areas were marked out and we wanted to leave them intact. Then, I started drawing the lines of the house to fit in between them.
In other words, a sense of conservation and a desire to preserve the environment dictated the shape of the building.
The edifice's site, near the village of Izabelin in the Kampinos National Park, is within one of Warsaw’s most desirable residential areas, which appeals also perhaps because of its unusual, almost cinematic appearance.
“Between a tree and a house, choose the tree,” the architect Carlo Scarpa used to say. However, the minds behind the design of this house have gone beyond this choice, creating a union between the natural and built worlds. Carlo Ratti and Italo Rota have shaped this dwelling around the life and rhythms of nature and the surrounding landscape, incorporating a time-honored Port Jackson fig within The Greenary. This is in fact the name of the private residence designed and built in the Parma countryside by the two architecture firms: it is a blend emerging from clever linguistic play combining green and granary to encapsulate many of the architectural and identity features of the home. The Greenary project began with renovation of an old farmhouse, including the tree. Named Alma (Latin for 'soul'), the giant sixty-year-old tree stands over ten-meters tall and symbolizes the idea of the human soul as the point of origin for our thoughts, feelings, free will and moral conscience.
This concept also hints at the biophilic principles underlying the entire project, these being the philosophy developed by sociobiologist and Harvard professor Edward Osborne Wilson. According to these ideas, humans have an innate desire to live with an emotional connection and in symbiosis with other living things.
Can a house be built envisaging three possible scenarios for its future and its occupants? It can, because Full House in Vancouver, Canada, is a multi-generation, adaptable home that may be easily converted to its owners' changing needs. Suitable for children, parents and grandparents alike, this unusual building is made up of two units and was designed by Leckie Studio Architecture + Design, with inspiration coming from Marcel Duchamp's 1927 work Door: 11, rue Larrey. Everything has been artfully translated into a design solution able to alter the layout of the rooms so that they adapt to the ages and needs of all the family members.
The key in the project is the reworking of a pivot door to make it into a sheet-steel revolving partition: this is rotated to change its position in the interiors space, and the layout, sizes and features of the various rooms can be redrawn by doing so. There are three possible configurations, each responding to the various stages in life's cycle and the family's consequent needs.
To understand Mathias Klotz's works, you need to look at his architecture from a particular point of view, and then go beyond that. This is also true of Patio House, in Chile: a creation rich in references and cues, it is a work that seems capable of dilating time and lasting eternally. This edifice is a private home with an unquestionably contemporary air and a clear Chilean identity, and yet evident European details also emerge. A language of forms belonging to our culture that began a century ago as rationalism, which shunned decorative elements and generated the landmark masterpieces from Mies van der Rohe's early period. Here, on the Pacific coast of South America, these forms have been reworked and developed, achieving a purity that never ceases to delight.
It is perhaps the same process that happens with a language: when a linguistic group moves away, detaching itself from its fellow speakers, the language it takes away remains as it was, albeit altering slightly. The changes take place slowly, becoming preserved in time. This is the principle of permanence at work: by making small adjustments, that language stands the test of time. It is what we today call resilience. This is why Mathias Klotz's work should be looked at and understood from another perspective.
WIND HOUSE, MOBIUS ARCHITEKCI
Location: Izabelin, Varsavia (Polonia)
Architects: Przemek Olczyk Mobius Architekci
Surface Area: 450 m2
Photography by Paweł Ulatowski, courtesy of Mobius Architekci
THE GREENARY A PARMA, ITALO ROTA E CARLO RATTI
Location: Montechiarugolo, Parma
Architects: CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati e Italo Rota
Build up area: 270 m2
Client: Francesco Mutti
Photography by Delfino Sisto Legnani and Alessandro Saletta - DSL Studio, courtesy of Carlo Ratti Associati
FULL HOUSE A VANCOUVER, LECKIE STUDIO ARCHITECTURE + DESIGN
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Architects: Leckie Studio Architecture + Design
Principal architect: Michael Leckie
Built area: 3,700 sf (350 m2)
Photography by Ema Peter, courtesy of Leckie Studio Architecture + Design
CASA PATIO IN CILE, MATHIAS KLOTZ
Location: Lo Curro, Santiago, Cile
Architect: Mathias Klotz
Gross floor area: 1,129 m2
Main contractor: Alvaro Bustos
Photography by Roland Halbe