Are These Best Houses on the Planet?

A white box covered in Teflon-coated fiberglass cloth in the Netherlands. A Cor-Ten-clad volume cantilevering within a glass shop in Pittsburgh. A home in Tokyo composed solely of glass and little platforms of stainless steel. A concrete box in West Africa designed by two artists. A seven-story concrete tower serving as a home and workplace for Chilean architects. These are a handful of the 50-plus houses collected in the third volume of Philip Jodidio’s Architecure Now! Houses novels (Taschen, 2013).

The Architecture Now! Series also concentrates on green buildings; interiors for eating, eating and drinking; landscapes; temporary buildings; and even those made of timber. Nonetheless, it’s that the Houses books that are some of the most popular, given that the continuing experimentation that architects tackle in residential commissions and, as Jodidio explains it in his introduction, ” these are no thin times for the wealthy and that, consequently, luxury homes are being built.” Luxury isn’t the defining feature of the houses within this volume, as they vary from under 1,000 square feet to more than 20,000 square feet. Rather, the book is about the wide array of forms, programs and websites that are being made and formed by architects for homes in the past couple of decades.

This ideabook touches a small percent of the houses in the book to, I trust, provide a feeling of the formal and geographical variety found in all of the jobs, and to see whether the choices are, even as Jodidio claims the “finest of what has been achieved anywhere in the world.” Even though “best” is such a subjective word, it is hard to deny the ways that many of the houses go well beyond the norm.

These architects are certainly pushing the boundaries on what may be possible, even as the ideas the houses Celebrate may take years to be integrated into more mainstream style, if ever at all.


If a book can be judged by its cover, Architecture Now! Houses 3 presents design that is modern but with a twist. Instead of a glass box sitting in the landscape — the penultimate modern home in this strain is the Farnsworth House — we’ve got three boxes that are linked to another and rising out of and alongside a dark rock foundation that merges into the landscape.

The L House in Yvelines, France, designed by Christian Pottgiesser along with his company, architecturepossibles, is really composed of five towers. This caused the customer’s desire to construct a single tall structure (to obstruct views of a neighboring land) together with local codes and the landmarked orangerie it adjoins. Each tower is attached internally on the bottom floor, which can be pierced by skylights.


The book includes eight jobs in america. Among them is that the Woodstock Farm Estate in Vermont, designed by Rick Joy, a architect normally associated with his home base of the desert Southwest. This project — two gable volumes forming a “L” in plan (the shorter leg, a two-story barn, is out of frame on the left) — reveals Joy is a fantastic enough architect to create a thing in your home in rural New England too.

Jodidio calls for the home “an extrapolation of [the] vernacular genre,” given that proportionally the pictured section is stretched longer than, and therefore has a considerably different percentage compared to barn. However, the design is serious, with shingles covering the roof and walls that are long, and mottled stonework covering the ends. (A photo of one of the rock ends actually graces the cover of Diane Keaton’s book, House.)


Two projects in the book are in Sri Lanka, either by Japanese architects. One is a massive 27,000-square-foot home designed by Tadao Ando, and the second is that the 8,800-square-foot Villa Vista designed by Shigeru Ban and really built for the son of Ando’s client. Ban was employed in the region in the middle of the last ten years, building catastrophe housing after the earthquake of December 26, 2004, and has been approached to style Villa Vista after his renovation work was completed. Throughout his career he has balanced design houses for those in need and for the wealthy, in this instance in certain comparative proximity.

Boundaries between indoors and outside at Villa Vista are blurry. While this view from a bridge traversing a pool (visible in the lower right corner) reveals, the shutters serve to aid shade what’s basically a terrace covered by a generous woven teak ceiling. Trees are visible in the distance through the shutters, but when we turn to the left we see over more trees into the sea from a large opening.

Belzberg Architects

Two of the eight houses in the USA are designed by Hagy Belzberg, one in Hawaii and one in Los Angeles; the latter is pictured here. The Skyline Residence is a large house perched on a ridge in the Hollywood Hills. The project is called for the detached carport that doubles as a projection screen. Wood slats unite the 2 structures and color the spaces in the home and above the garage.

Belzberg Architects

Appropriately, given the name Skyline Residence, the design can be about the view. Belzberg took good advantage of the site to not only provide a excellent place for watching movies, but to produce the valley that is Los Angeles a constant presence through the full-height glass walls.


Though Japan is only roughly the size of California, the book features 10 jobs in Tokyo and other environs. Easily the most striking is Sou Fujimoto’s House NA, in a residential area of central Tokyo. At first glance there is nothing house-like about it … it is even hard to decipher how one occupies the small platforms made of stainless steel and defined by glass partitions.

Fujimoto contrasts it to living in a tree, even though he doesn’t attempt to possess the home formally resemble one. It is like the home is made up of a series of little tree houses, but the openness of these glass walls sets the occupants obviously on screen.

How somebody lives in the home is a matter Jodidio appropriately asks, and the response could find a parallel in the sharing of lives that occurs in electronic networks. The home is subsequently for young people with various approaches to dwelling, “assembled more online than on the machine-driven world of the past,” in Jodidio’s words.

Almost as striking is Ryue Nishizawa’s Garden and House, also in Tokyo. The architect calls the home with four levels plus a roof a building with no walls. There are some walls — fixed and sliding walls of glass — however their location and extents of enclosure differ from floor to floor, like the earth floor is mainly enclosed but the third floor is outside, with no stair and a toilet. Each floor is then a mix of indoor and outdoor, house and garden.

The majority of the jobs in the book are single-family houses, but the Shakujii Apartment building in Tokyo differs. The project, designed by SANAA/Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa, consists of eight apartments that complete 5,200 square feet (so much smaller than the home in Sri Lanka from Shigeru Ban!) . The units are a mix of full-height glass partitions and open porches, strung along a road in 2 layers front and back.

SANAA’s project is like a metropolitan, multifamily update of the Farnsworth House. The steel frame, glass partitions and open porches are here, but everything is slightly intermittent: Roofs and floors don’t align, and things change in plan to squeeze a lot of units on this small site.

In the end of the book’s socioeconomic scale is the Float House, designed by Thom Mayne and Morphosis for Brad Pitt’s Make It Right base, which helped rebuild portion of New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina.

The design relies on a traditional shotgun home, however asymmetry and some flourishes in the construction, porch railing, dividers and windows make it a contemporary neighbor. And while the house may seem too low for a Katrina-like occasion, it can really be increased up to 12 feet high on guideposts.

This last project is the cantilevered building in Pittsburgh mentioned in the introduction. Called the Art Glass House, by architect Eric Fisher, the house is for the owner of the eponymous company that occupies the industrial building it cantilevers over. The Cor-Ten steel siding calls even more attention to what the architect explains as “the world’s longest residential cantilever” — inspired by Fallingwater but going well beyond the limited reach of the earlier residential masterpiece.

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