Tired of the everyday rat-race? More and more people try to escape the turmoil of the big city, either by relocating or by building weekend houses in the middle of nature. Contemporary architects have found unique ways to integrate nature into home designs and create a balance between natural elements and functionality without compromising comfort and style.
Such modern or even futuristic homes, once a novelty, are now popping up all over the world. Even people from very traditional cultures have learned to embrace the house of the future with all its advantages. While being in the middle of nature and maintaining a minimal footprint is important, being energy-efficient and relying on nature’s resources are just as crucial for the contemporary designers and homeowners in this list. The following mind-bending homes from around world have the perfect combination of efficiency and design.
15. The House on the Cliff / Casa del Acantilado (Salobreña, Spain)
For most people, a piece of land sitting on a 42-degree inclined cliff is not exactly prime real estate. However, for the owners of this property, a young couple with a child, and for architects Pablo Gil and Jaime Bartolomé, this was an exciting challenge.
This architectural wonder resembling a scaled dragon was designed to embrace the beautiful surroundings and offer a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea. The two-story 2,400 square feet house has a swimming pool, a terraced living room, several balconies, and an auditorium that can host about 70 people.
14. Falcon’s Nest (Prescott, Arizona)
This chimney-shaped house is 124 feet tall, has 10 floors and a total living area of 6,200 square feet. Now that is a nest no one would like to leave. The home has 3 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms. The impressive 2,000 square solarium located in the middle of the home accommodates at least two beds, two baths, a kitchen, and a great room. A hydraulic elevator provides access from the garage level to the sixth floor.
Sukumar Pal, owner and designer of the house, specializes in energy-efficient homes. He wanted to build a home as tall as possible, and create a chimney effect that does not only provide spectacular views but is essential for the heating and cooling of the house.
If you’ve ever dreamed of living up in the sky and enjoying a spectacular view, this house could be yours for $1.5 million, which is a steal compared to the $2.8 million it was originally listed for in 2015.
13. The Heliotrope (Freiburg, Germany)
In times when everyone wants to reduce their energy bills, the German architect Ralph Disch found a solution to this problem: one of the first energy positive homes in the world, that generates five times the amount of energy it consumes. Mounted on a pole, the wood house is timed to rotate 180 degrees throughout the day, following the sun’s track. The Heliotrope also reuses grey water and rainwater for domestic use and features a composting toilet system.
The architect came up with the idea while he was protesting the city’s decision to build a nuclear power plant in town. Houses that used solar energy were not a novelty, but Disch wanted to design a house that would produce more energy than it consumed.
12. That House (Melbourne, Australia)
Although Americans are not far behind, Australians own some of the largest houses in the world. But the team of Austin Maynard Architects wanted to prove that bigger is not always better. Their goal was to build a house that felt spacious, despite its small footprint.
Even though this home is about half the size of the neighbouring homes around it, it is not a small house, but rather a smart one. In order to create the illusion of a large space the home features large openings and well-connected outdoor spaces and gardens that make it feel spacious.
The house consists of three volumes stacked on top of each other that contribute to some of the main concepts of the house: openness and transparency. The upward blinds which are pulled up from the floor, provide privacy from the street, while still allowing a view of the outside.
11. Croft House (Inverloch, Australia)
The first time the owner Kate Morris saw the zinc roofing on her house she wasn’t very happy with the spaceship design.
Although this futuristic house might seem cold and out of place in this Australian seaside town, it is surprisingly welcoming and comfortable on the inside. Suffice to say Kate has learned to enjoy it and looks forward to the reaction of first-time guests.
The house is shaped like a sand dune, turning its back to the prevailing winds. Architect James Stockwell’s vision was to create a home sheltered from wind and water, but that was also easily able to integrate into the landscape.
The owners have opted for minimal lighting so it wouldn’t distract from the view outside. Even the furnishings are kept to a minimum and can be easily moved around the living room to get a view of either the sea or the pond.
10. Nautilus House (Naucalpan de Juárez, Mexico)
The world is your oyster and now you can live in a whimsical shell. It doesn’t get any better than that. At least for a young family with two children from Mexico City, who wanted an unconventional home that would bring them closer to nature.
The architect, Javier Senosiain, was inspired by the works of Gaudí and Frank Lloyd Wright, and a new concept called Bio-Architecture, based on the understanding that everything is connected, alive and conscious. The house is a beautiful mix of modern architecture, contemporary art, and natural harmonic elements.
Some of the unique features of the house are the hundreds of stained glass windows that create a mosaic effect in the living area, the spiral staircase, the sitting area that includes live plants and a “grass carpet”, the winding stone pathways. The house is not only beautiful but also earthquake-proof, thanks to the materials used.
9. House For Ever / Casa Para Siempre (Lima, Peru)
The young Peruvian couple told the architect they wanted a house where they could live forever. While they might not live forever, they will probably end up spending the rest of their lives in this house with a very futuristic design.
The lot where the house sits on was occupied at that time by an old house where the couple and their two children were living. The architect decided to demolish the house, but keep the spirit of the old place when he constructed the “House for Ever.” His vision started with an imaginary big ancestral rock found on the site that needed to be carved, which he then transformed into the living space.
The 5,920 square feet living space is every bit as modern and unconventional as the outside of the house. It features a 4-car garage, service patio, maid’s quarters, and a swimming pool in the basement, while the first floor accommodates the kitchen, dining and living spaces.
8. The Seashell House / Casa Caracol (Isla Mujeres, Mexico)
Casa Caracol looks like the ideal mix between a fairy tale house and a vacation retreat. Architect Eduardo Ocampo was inspired by the numerous shells found on the beaches of Isla Mujeres and the result was a unique design, both on the outside and the inside. The construction was made using traditional concrete and recycled materials, but also elements of the surrounding environment, like sea shells and coral. Even the doors, windows, and furniture are unique custom-made creations.
7. Tula House (Quadra Island, Canada)
This house located in Quadra Island, British Columbia, was designed by Patkau Architects. The 4,500 square feet structure offers breathtaking views of the ocean and surrounding forest. This is just another example of when modernism meets nature, where plants and rocks are integrated parts of the unconventional design.
The house is a single-story structure with three bedrooms, a living room, a dining room and a study. Instead of a traditional swimming pool, the house’s outdoor pool is groundwater that flows through the site into the ocean.
One of the biggest challenges of building the house was the remote location, which made sourcing and transporting materials difficult and that is why the construction of the house took six years to be completed.
6. Hind House (Berkshire, U.K.)
Hind House sits by the river Loddon, near Wargrave, where seasonal flooding is a common occurrence the residents must deal with. The team of John Pardey Architects had to take this into consideration when designing the home and that is why it was built on stilts. The house is divided into three distinct zones: an open living space, a guest room/gym area, and a bedroom area.
The house is operated by a computerized building management system. The system controls heating demands, lighting, solar control, and all the audio-visual installations in the house. The walls, floors, and roofs are insulated using sheep’s wool insulation to create a highly energy-efficient home.
5. Fallingwater / The Kaufmann Residence
This house was designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935 in rural Pennsylvania, 43 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966.
The materials of the structure blend with the colours of the surrounding rocks and trees, while occasional accents are provided by bright furnishings, like wildflowers or birds outside. And what is really unique about this house is the way it hangs over a waterfall using the architectural device known as the cantilever. It doesn’t get any more Feng Shui than that.
The total cost of Fallingwater (including the guest house) was originally $155,000 and is worth about $2.7 million today. The house was used as a weekend home until 1963 when Kaufmann Jr. donated the property to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
4. Cloud House (Melbourne, Australia)
While some Internet users choose to store their documents in the cloud, an Australian family decided to store all their belongings in a different kind of cloud. The unusual Cloud House first came to be with the renovation and extension of an old Edwardian house. The designers decided to keep the original design of the front of the house as it was built over 100 years ago. The inside, on the other hand, is a wooden funnel with a bright red, cube-shaped kitchen, that acts as a bridge between the old and the new.
The combination of styles – the traditional hall from the old Edwardian style home juxtaposed with the modernist space starting from the kitchen – is like taking a fantastical trip through Lewis Carroll’s rabbit hole, where one can jump from the real world to a magical, surreal one.
3. Tower House (NY)
This 30-foot-tall tower house in upstate New York is a weekend retreat for architect Thomas Gluck and his family. The main purpose of this unusual design was to have a minimal footprint (430 square feet) and to avoid interfering with the natural environment as little as possible. Each of the first three floors has a small bedroom and bathroom, while the top floor (accommodating the living, dining, and kitchen areas) hangs over the forest like a canopy, offering a beautiful view of the lake and Catskill mountain range. And if that wasn’t enough, there is also an outdoor rooftop deck where you can enjoy the summer breeze. The house doesn’t need any air conditioning thanks to the numerous large windows that allow for airflow, which in turn keep the energy use to a minimum.
2. Dune House (Terschelling, Netherlands)
Overlooking the North Sea, this is the perfect example of a house that blends into the surrounding environment. While designing the house, Marc Koehler Architects team had to take into consideration environmental factors, like wind and sunlight, and choose materials that would match the colors and textures found around the vicinity. Grey, green, and brown tones were used both on the outside and inside of the house. Some of the materials used are recycled concrete and a mix of different types of wood (timber, red cedar, walnut). Interestingly, the red cedar wood cladding and roof was left untreated, so it will change color with time.
The house was completed in 2014 and is built almost entirely out of ecological materials and eco-friendly installations and is highly energy-efficient. The 1,937 square feet living area is divided between two main floors and a large basement.
1. Antilia (Mumbai, India)
The most extravagant house in the world, found in Mumbai, is an actual 550 feet skyscraper with 27 stories and over 400,000 square feet of interior space.
The owner, Mukesh Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Industries, paid around $1 billion to have it built and, as one can imagine, a house like this comes with a lot of maintenance costs, including a staff of 600 people. Antilia contains a multi-story garage with space for 168 cars and three helipads on the roof.
To say that this “house” is ostentatious is an understatement, considering that most Mumbai residents live on $2 a day, and the building overlooks an overcrowded slum.
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