House in Shimamoto is located in a busy residential neighborhood in Osaka, Japan. Container Design, based in Kobe, Japan, designed the simple home with the goal of connecting the residents with nature while maintaining privacy from near-by neighbors. The home is comprised of three basic materials: steel, glass, and timber. White galvanized steel plates cover the facade, protecting the retreat from the crowded street. On the north side of the home, large glass windows bring in natural light and offer a peak at the mountainous landscape. Timber is used throughout the interior: the ceiling and wall beams are exposed and the floor alternates between a solid and slatted wood pattern. I love the restricted use of materials in this home. The steel, glass, and wood feel complimentary yet still maintain an interesting contrast. House in Shimamoto is a no-fuss home that is sure to please anyone lucky enough to reside there.
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The office of Pasel Kuenzel Architects has recently completed this project, Urban Villa, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In an almost utilitarian language, the residence is designed as stark and minimalist while the exterior and the details of the construction tell the story of what the house is about. The large 3300sf house is made of up 2 intersecting volumes – a horizontal for living spaces and a vertical for the more private office, bedrooms and a roof terrace. Using white painted raw timber boards made of Douglas fir that clad the exterior, the architects included large windows with black frames to punctuate the facade. The clean detailing of both the interior and exterior makes this project extremely elegant. My favorite part of this architecture is that all the white floors, ceilings and walls seamlessly define the space, leaving the texture of the exterior walls and grounds to reflect back through the large window walls, further emphasizing the personality of the building. Photography by Marcel van der Burg.
AFGH Architects is a Zurich-based architecture firm formed under Andreas Fuhrimann and Gabrielle Hächler in 1995. Known for their minimal usage in materials, AFGH has since then established a solid foundation for future projects. Like a bird nest floating above the mirror-like water surface of Lake Rotsee in Switzerland, the 11-meter high lookout was recently completed as the first portion of AFGH’s winning proposal for the new Rotsee Rowing Club. With its functional time being only three weeks per year, this wooden structure was designed to be adaptive with time, with sliding and pivoting shades. They unify the exterior and interior when open, bringing in the views of the beautiful surroundings and out the cleanliness of the space. The entire design is rested on concrete pillars and connected to the inland with a timber dock. From the facades to the structures, everything weaves together harmoniously to form a beautiful cocoon that gives itself to nature every once in a while. Even though the OSB wood interior might seem sterile now, there are many furnishes to be added in the near future. Afterwards, I believe that the relationship between the project and its context will flourish marvelously.
+node is a home located in the Hiroshima Prefecture of Japan. Designed by UID Architects, +node creates a place where the natural world and the man-made world seamlessly intersect. The timber clad building is composed of two rectangular forms, one for support and one which extends beyond the hillside to form a spectacular cantilever. The cantilever hovers high above the forest floor and features a partially open floor, allowing trees to grow up into the home. The main floor contains the living area, study, and outdoor space, while the bedrooms are located on the lower story. I love how this structure utilizes smart design elements to improve the convergence of building and environment. The wooden facade and cantilever allow the home to feel as if it is a part of the terrain, rather than fighting against it.
Satoshi Okada’s forest retreat in the foothills of Mount Fuji, Japan is one that intentionally is intended as the shadow itself, set against its incredible natural surroundings. Completed in 2000 and covering just over 138sqm, the Mount Fuji House was designed as a secondary element to the site. This opposes, in quite an impactful and stunning way, that the architects have exercised overt sensitivity to the complexity of the buildings’ context. In terms of the façade, the black represents a shadow in the forest. Alike much of its Japanese structural colleagues, this villa and guesthouse is constructed from timber. The outer wall is made of Japanese cedar, stained in black, the colour of lava, for the memory of the site. It also provides a dark band between the greens, where the house in the black represents a shadow in the forest. The retreat features a combination of two volumes, the larger housing a double height row of dining, kitchen, and a loft above and the smaller comprising a main hall, which connects the stacked bedroom elements and bathroom facilities also. I find this retreat and its subtlety quite dramatic. Perhaps due to the contrast of materials, or the connection usually...
To mark its 75th anniversary Knoll joined forces with OMA, co-founded by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. At Salone del Mobile 2013 in Milan earlier this month they launched a new collection of kinetic furniture called Tools for Life. The collection features adjustable tables, swivel chairs, a stool, an executive desk, and other items. The minimalist material palette makes the furniture compatible with a range of residential and workplace interiors. I would like to highlight one of the collection pieces named 04 Counter. A horizontal stack of 3 timber blocks that can be transformed from a wall-like unit to cantilevered benches that swing around a central axis. A metamorphosis from a spatial partition to a communal gathering place. We wanted to create a range of furniture that performs in very precise but also in completely unpredictable ways, furniture that not only contributes to the interior but also to the animation – Rem Koolhaas
The Fukasawa House, located in a suburb of Tokyo, looks simple and unassuming from the street. On the interior, however, this home is a design marvel. Designed by Japanese based architects MDS, the house experiments with the characteristics and limitations of wooden structures. Fukasawa House uses V-shaped posts to support beams constructed from common timber. This arrangement allows for a open, large rooms that are divided by the wooden posts rather than solid walls. Wood framed structures are often an obstacle for modern designers. MDS took this obstacle and turned it into a playful, daring structure. The use of wood in this home allows for an aesthetically pleasing environment. But the ideas behind this residence are the true driving force of the design.
Designed with a very specific purpose — to separate the owners from a loud, busy street in downtown Miyasaki, southern Japan, into their own private sanctuary — architect Michiya Tsukano of Tsukano Architect Office delivers this monolithic white structure with only a narrow vertical slice to interrupt it. The home was designed around a private courtyard, that provides natural lighting for the interiors and is overlooked by every room. Concrete walls and surfaces are balanced with light-colored timber panels, warm ceramics, white plaster and glass. My favorite part is where the concrete dining table meets the white pebbled courtyard floor at the same level, a flowing continuity barely interrupted by a large glass pane. The design exudes the calm and peacefulness of its statement of purpose and is an interesting contemporary hybrid between traditional Japanese design and Western standards.
The Kfar Shmaryahu House is a two story family home located in Kfar Shmaryahu, Israel. Designed by Israeli architect Pitsou Kedem, this home is a dynamic structure, dictated by the needs of the client and the hot Israeli climate. Timber screens cover half the exterior, sitting flush against the white walls. The screens act as light filters for the large expanse of windows hidden behind them. When desired, the screens fold open, transforming the look and feel of the structure. The first floor features an open floor plan, which contains the kitchen, living and dining areas. Four bedrooms rest on the upper story. This home is truly an example of form follows function. The need for shade and privacy dictated the structure’s main distinguishing feature, the louvered panels. Yet style was not sacrificed for function: the Kfar Shmaryahu House is a perfect blend of the two.
Mur House by Apollo Architects & Associates in Yokohama City, Kanagawa is the perfect combination of pure lines and stripped-back Japanese simplicity. Conceived to house the client’s expansive art collection, the Mur House acts as an innocent bystander to the human animation anticipated unfolding within. Typical of Japanese residences, it is clear the architectural collaborative intended, through glazing, to frame the external world. From within, this house looks out, from a place of calm white-ness out onto the urban stage that surrounds. After entering this house, a long approach awaits and functions as a switch of in and out, whereby connecting spaces act as rooms, connecting the various destinations. The journey between these spaces is a continuation of this calm. At just over 80sqm and completed in 2011, this timber structure dwelling creates a distinctly bold silhouette. The combination of operable and fixed façade elements creates hubs of privacy, mixed with subtle porthole vistas from the outside world. The contrast between these elements creates, I think, a perfect haven in amongst high-densification.
The Ridge Road Residence is located on the Mornington Peninsular of Australia, within the Moonah Links golf course. Studio Four developed the design so that it addresses the existing site conditions and promotes environmentally responsible practices in its architecture – the adjacent tea trees that provide shade to the exposed living areas, full-height and completely operable windows for natural ventilation, various water-saving storage features and renewable timber as its main construction material. Above all, its minimalist aesthetic is what appeals to me most. I like how it sits low in elevation with terraced decks created from simple volumes so it blends in with the topography, and that the distinct separation of private vs public is complimented with such beautiful, seamless architectural details and contrast of white and black. Photography by Shannon McGrath.
Twentieth Century Casa Orfila by Schneider Colao epitomizes the minimalist style. Through a combination of white on white, separated only by intricate shadow lines and seamless junctions, the perfect execution of less is achieved. The expression of discreet is overt. I like this. Completed in 2011 in Madrid, Spain, this 200sqm house is both considered and considerate. I am particularly partial to the use of stone, and the slightness of the veins that run through it, humanizing it. The introduction of the timber to the expressed ceiling adds another element of warmth to this otherwise quite austere interior. A home, after all, is supposed to entice such feelings of enrapture. Since combining forces in 2007, the architects, Ursula Schneider and Jesus Colao (Schneider Colao) seem to fuse together (quite beautifully) elements of their own nationalistic minimalism to create the modesty that is Casa Orfila. To me, this combination of warmth on cool is quite fitting.