Four Wholly Walls

By Laura Gerhaeusser

Stay inside, stay home. That’s what we’ve been told for these past weeks all over the world. What’s the traditional, formal idea of a home? Let’s take a look at the definition of a house, groundbreaking and challenging architecture throughout the years and affordable housing for all. On top of that, find out more about the exciting book The Iconic House by Thames & Hudson, which is celebrating 100 years of radical architecture alongside gorgeous images by Richard Powers.

“House, noun [\ ˈhau̇s]: a building that serves as living quarters for one or a few families.”

Do you remember drawing a house when you were little? The uneven triangle shape for a layout – perfectly colorful thanks to the crayons. A roof full of steam, four rooms that were the same in size – kitchen, bathroom, living room, bedroom. If you felt a little fancy, maybe you even took some time to draw one of those corner-suns to give plenty of light to your new castle.

This childish practice was all fun and games, but has actually proven to be quite the go-to norm for traditional houses for a long time. Over the years, more and more architects challenged the idea of this grid-like system and how a house can actually look like. Let’s take a look at an array of iconic ideas, that would scandalize, yet revolutionize at the time.

Fallingwater, Pennsylvania © Kevin T. Quinn

Designed in 1936, architect Frank Lloyd Wright built a weekend-get-away for the wealthy Kauffman family, just south of Pittsburgh. The wild thing: it was partly built on top of a waterfall – hence its name: Fallingwater.

Wright was hugely influenced by Japanese architecture and especially, interior design. This is evident when taking a look inside Fallingwater: the appreciation of the space and nature and the use of organic materials, alongside traditional Japanese interior design principles and styles.

The Living room at Fallingwater   ©Rahul Deshpande, Architecture
The Living room at Fallingwater ©Rahul Deshpande

As the building was finished, it made heads turn and people were left in awe of this daring architectural masterpiece. Smithsonian featured it in their “Life List of 28 places to visit before you die”. In 1966 it was even named a National Historic Landmark.

Palais Bulles, Cannes       © Niklas Morberg, Architecture
Palais Bulles, Cannes © Niklas Morberg

A literally bubbly house can be found in Cannes: overlooking the width and beauty of the ocean and the Côte d’Azur. The construction work for the Palais Bulles started in 1975 and ended in 1989. Hungarian architect Antti Lovag built the residence for industrialist Pierre Bernard. Not only is it a home – it’s a 1200 squaremetres estate including a reception hall, a panoramic lounge, a 500-seat amphitheatre, various swimming pools and waterfalls. So, very modest. After going under renovations in 2017 it was put on the market for 350 million dollars.

 Antti Lovag. Palais Bulles, Cannes, France    © Richard Powers, Architecture
Antti Lovag. Palais Bulles, Cannes, France © Richard Powers
 Antti Lovag. Palais Bulles, Cannes, France    © Richard Powers, Architecture
Antti Lovag. Palais Bulles, Cannes, France © Richard Powers
John Lautner. Elrod Residence, Palm Springs, California , Architecture
John Lautner. Elrod Residence, Palm Springs, California © Richard Powers

In the middle of dreamy Palm Springs, John Lautner built a luxurious home in 1968. The California city amidst the Coachella valley, is known for its spectacular modernist architecture and innovative houses. In this case it’s a mind-blowing example of free-architecture – meaning a seamless combination of nature and the house itself. The rocks, which the house was built upon, were left in place and featured and used as part of the interior design. The mouth-dropper for this house, called Elrod Residence, is definitely the large circular concrete canopy above the main living area.

Elrod House, Palm Springs, California      © Aaron Sylvan, Architecture
Elrod House, Palm Springs, California © Aaron Sylvan

The mansion has been featured in the legendary James Bond Diamonds Are Forever and was the backdrop for photoshoots for Playboy magazine.

A Dutch architecture competition in 1982. The brief? Design a house disregarding everything you’ve learned about architecture. Don’t listen to rules about layout, structure and style. The winners would get to loan the piece of land they built their house on for 5 years. With that being said, the competitors had to keep in mind, that their houses would be fairly easy to disassemble.

an Benthem. Benthem House, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Architecture
Jan Benthem. Benthem House, Amsterdam, Netherlands © Richard Powers

Jan Benthem came up with a compact house. The building itself was placed on a metal grid, that acts as a safe space between the house’s floor and the ground, so that it would be easy to remove the house from site. The ceiling, floors and roof were all manufactured from steel. All walls were made out of glass, so that the surrounding areas were part of the individual room’s landscape. Although it was only meant to be around for 5 years, it still sits proudly on its metal bed in Almere, Netherlands, today.

Botanica House, Singapore      © Guz Architects, Architecture
Botanica House, Singapore © Guz Architects

Nowadays, architects are still coming up with genius ideas to incorporate houses into nature and not force a new building into an effortlessly beautiful landscape. A prime example of a house like this is Botanica House. Built in Singapore in 2018, Guz Architects set the focus of building the house around principles of Feng Shui – the age-old Chinese practice, which says to gather energy forces to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment.

Because Botanica House is surrounded by lush forests, it’s as green as can be. It also includes a round, glass lift and features breathtaking views overlooking the UNESCO world heritage site of the botanic gardens.

Botanica House, Singapore      © Guz Architects,
Botanica House, Singapore © Guz Architects

Dream houses are all fun and games. Innovative doesn’t always have to be a matter of luxury – social housing is also catching up with radical designs and ideas.

Goldsmith Street, Norwich.
Goldsmith Street, Norwich.

In recent years, cities and architects have been working hand in hand to create friendlier, greener and more welcoming solutions for social housing and low-income families

Norwich is at the forefront with not only low-cost, but highly-sustainable solutions. This project, in a relatively small city in the UK, made global headlines for being a gamechanger in modern housing.

100 new homes on Goldsmith Street were introduced in July of last year. Designed with a clean, modern and uniformly approach and the concept of space in mind, this complex offers affordable social-housing.

Not only that- but it also meets the German Passivhaus standards ( a high level of occupant comfort while using very little energy for heating and cooling), therefore saving about 70 % in fuel bills for tenants. This makes it UK’s largest Passivhaus scheme and can be seen as a possible way to save resources in the future. The houses are designed to be as airtight as possible, with a mechanical heat and ventilation system that circulates air through the rooms.

Children are able to play with a carefree mind, as the gardenspaces are in the middle of the houses – meaning no traffic and other potential dangers.

Goldsmith Street is also proving its point with a lot of green and open spaces, which gives it a friendly look. Learn more about this project here.

Goldsmith Street, Norwich.
Goldsmith Street, Norwich.

Isn’t it fascinating and refreshing to explore different perspectives and angles architects have chosen, to give this definition a new meaning and stretch the formal idea of what a house looks like? All while leaving a fingerprint of their artistic fingerprint along the way.

Dominic Bradbury took a walk down architecture lane and compiled the most memorable houses and their story, alongside stunning images into the book The Iconic House. It features gorgeous photography by Richard Powers, who proves to be a master of showcasing these fabulous houses’ sparks in every way.

The Iconic House: Architectural Masterworks Since 1900.

Thames & Hudson is offering 30% off all titles on their website, so jump into the world of remarkable architecture.

Have you enjoyed this article? Find more exciting articles about architecture at .Cent! Why not read about Charles Rennie Mackintosh or the legendary Bauhaus movement?

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