This unique structure in Tokyo is a smart renovation of a traditional Japanese home. Called simply Arrow, the renovation features a second floor living space accessed by a dramatic entrance staircase. The existing structure on the ground floor has been transformed into a photography studio. A unique skylight and floor-to-ceiling windows flood the home with soft, natural light. Designed by Apollo Architects & Associates, Arrow effectively achieves a work-life balance. It is rare to find peace and privacy in the dense neighborhoods of Tokyo, especially when the house must function as a home and studio. The division of program, window placement, and unique entrance create a structure that is as practical as it is beautiful.
Speed down the highway in the town of Shimanto, Japan and you might miss the little house on the side of the road. And that is exactly what architects Keisuke Kawaguchi+K2-Design intended. The House of Shimanto is located next to a major roadway, but it doesn’t feel like it. The minimal design makes it barely visible from the road, deterring any curious drivers’ eyes. Three sides of the structure are designed as a barricade against the noise and views of the highway. The back of the house opens up to the environment with large windows and outdoor space. I love how the architects managed to provide a comfortable and livable home despite the challenges of the site. House of Shimanto provides creative solutions to big problems: it is quite simply a great design.
There have been a lot of attempts to revive the essence of what the design of the Farnsworth House by Mies Van Der Rohe stood for but none quite so relevant as the LM Guest House by Desai Chia Architecture. Located upstate New York, its biggest success is in its efficiency both in construction and in utilization. Radiant flooring, motorized solar shading, photovoltaic panels, and rainwater harvesting have been designed to support the minimalist warm wood aesthetic of the interiors. Unlike its predecessor, it has been designed to further emphasize the floating without the use of columns and cantilevering over a concrete foundation wall. And my fondness for this building, like most architecture, is in the construction details. The simple strategy of stopping the interior floors before it meets the glass walls makes the pictureque wall windows seem to go on forever, the only opportunity to feel like you are floating in that beautiful landscape. Photography by Paul Warchol.
This house sits near the town Krumbach in the Austrian countryside. It was designed by Bernado Bader Architects who used locally sourced elm, spruce and fir in the construction. 60 trees were strategically used in the finishes, structure and even the furniture, a highlight of this efficient design project. The use of wood and concrete are not only efficient building materials, but they compliment each other visually in the architecture of this residence. The minimalist design take a step back while allowing for opportunities of the changing landscape to fill the interiors through the large windows and intersecting deck. The essence of the Austrian countryside vernacular architecture in terms of the proportion of the volume within and its connection to the expansive landscape makes this an incredibly desirable rural escape for the summer. Photography by Adolf Bereuter.
The S House is a single-storey holiday home in the South of France, recently completed by Belgian architect Nicolas Schuybroek. The building, located on the Côte d’Azur (more specifically in Cap d’ Antibes), is surrounded by the picturesque landscape of the Mediterranean. The austere, linear structure plays beautifully against the surrounding terrain. The large openings frame view of the sea and the pool, letting plenty of light into the inner space of the house. I love the use of the material in this project. Understated gray concrete changes shade and texture depending on a light. It also creates the feeling of serenity and depth, blending exterior and interior into a fluid architectural whole.
What could be more minimal than a Donald Judd sculpture? The clean forms, understated materials, and production process make Judd’s sculptures a hallmark of minimalism. Not unpredictably, his home and studio is an epitome of minimalist aesthetic and sensibility. Located in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City, Judd’s five story row home is now open to the public, thanks to restoration efforts by Architecture Research Office. Decorated with furniture of his own design, as well as artworks by artists Carl Andre, John Chamberlain, Dan Flavin and Frank Stella, Judd’s home was a source of inspiration to him and his contemporaries. With the precise restoration complete, the home and studio preserves Donald Judd’s legacy, allowing a future generation to be inspired by the timeless artist.
In this 3-storey residence in Osaka, Japan by architect Ido Kenji, the challenges of maximizing living space and optimizing natural light on such a narrow site surrounded by mixed-use buildings drive the design of this family home. It was the intention of the architect to manipulate the volume of the interiors to enable light through the skylight to penetrate down to the lower floors. To do so, the walls of the first floor had to bear most of the structural load while the walls of the second floor rotated 14 degrees on the plan which would not only let in the light, but also create a unique and evocative living space. As described by the architect: This inclined wall frees people’s feeling by deviation from the norm, simultaneously the sense of touch of the degree of inclination and the light to reflect of that inclination cause a new physical sense. What resulted is an experience of a home that feels ethereal. Light peeks from the crevices into the volumes of the interiors which are complimented by the understated minimalist architecture and finishes. I love the fact that this house is both a retreat from the other small houses, businesses and factories...
House in Nanjo is a modern gem located in the Okinawa Prefecture, a series of islands in the southernmost region of Japan. The natural landscape of the island is breathtaking; it is only fitting that this home was built to be equally stunning. Designed by local firm Matsuyama Architect and Associates, this house rivals the surrounding environment with scale and palette. The structure is monumental: a massive rectangular form which contains vast interior dwelling spaces. The grey and white exterior ensures this building sits distinctly apart from the green lawn and blue sky. The juxtaposition this home creates between the natural and built environment gives it a refreshing, bold quality. The building is not fighting with nature; it is having a conversation. House in Nanjo unequivocally approaches the trees, grass, and sky and says, Look at me, I’m spectacular too.
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...
House J sits on a small, unassuming site in Yamaguchi, Japan. Situated in a busy residential neighborhood, House J provides a peaceful oasis for its residents. Designed by Keiko Maita Architect Office, this structure features three floors that revolve around an inner garden. A roof terrace offers additional outdoor space. House J is a thoughtful solution to common design challenges: lack of space and lack of privacy. By situating the rooms around an inner courtyard, the architects create an image of seclusion. The large windows and pragmatic use of square footage illude to a home much larger than its actual footprint. Overall, House J is a wonderful response to a bustling neighborhood in southern Japan.
House Apelle, a charming single family home, is located in a wooded area of Finland. Designed by the unique architect and artist Marco Casagrande, of Casagrande Laboratory, this home was designed with particular attention to the surrounding environment. According to Casagrande: The building rests in a natural harbor like a boat in a sheltering pocket surrounded by bed rocks and trees… The house is in the forest as much as the forest is in the house – the architecture is a mediator between the modern man and nature. The interior is largely open, with few walls separating a central living space from the private areas on the sides of the house. Large windows and the use of natural materials bring the outdoors in. This is a lovely multifunctional home that bridges the gaps between modern and traditional, beauty and function, man and nature.
Designed as a residence that also serves the practice of a physiotherapist, House D-Z was designed by Belgian architects Graux & Baeyens located in Oudenaarde. The blocks that form the volume of the house cleverly stagger to bring in sunlight and optimize views while carefully protecting the privacy of the owner from the neighbors in such close proximity. It is a relatively simple concept yet the architects have delivered it with such beautiful proportions, details and finishes. The monolithic form of the volumes naturally support the intention of the window wall that frames the view of the garden. What I enjoy most is the unique series of stairs which repeat in the cross section, defining the separated volumes of the private and public spaces in this minimalist residence. Photographs by Luc Roymans.