In this article, originally published by Metropolis as “Houses Without Windows: Meditative Respites or Architectural Straightjackets?“, Komal Sharma looks into the architectural oddity that is the completely enclosed house. While many would shudder at the idea, there is a rich history of houses which, in exceptional circumstances and with exceptional clients, make sense without windows.
The Vertical Glass House by Chinese architects Atelier FCJZ is disingenuous to say the least. Its name suggests a vertical derivative of Philip Johnson‘s canonical house, and in fact its architects describe it as a 90-degree rotation of the typical modernist glass house. Instead, what welcomes visitors at Shanghai‘s Xuhui waterfront is a four-story concrete house without any windows. Where is all that promised glass, you might ask?
The answer is inside. The house’s textured concrete walls give it the appearance of a bunker, but the interiors are actually light-filled. The architects accomplish this through an inverted sense of space. Where one expects walls of glass, yielding a platonic prism that brazenly exposes inhabitants to the outside world, the house instead delivers a surprising twist: the 7-cm-thick floor slabs are completely transparent, endowing users with a Superman-like sense of see-through vision. The experience of looking up through all of the house’s spaces, even the most private spaces like the bathroom, is breathtakingly novel.
Read on for more about the phenomenon of window-less houses
Freakonomics has just posted a fascinating new podcast that takes on the question posed by Alastair Townsend in our AD original article: “Why Japan is Crazy About Housing.” The podcast consults with Townsend and economic experts to present a thought-provoking answer to the puzzling question of why Japan builds architecture that is avant-garde and yet, ultimately, disposable. The answer may just surprise you. Listen to the whole podcast here:
d3 has just announced the winners of its annual Housing Tomorrow competition, a competition that urges its participants to “deploy innovative, socially- and environmentally-engaged approaches to residential urbanism, architecture, interiors, and designed objects” in order to determine “new architectonic strategies for living in the future.” As always, the results are fantastic, thought-provoking visions of a more sustainable world. See the winners, after the break.
The Y-Cube, a £30,000 factory-built 26 square meter flat which can be easily transported and craned into place, has been prototyped and successfully tested in the UK. The YMCA asked Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners to create the Y-Cube, an affordable alternative for residents moving on from the non-profit’s hostels. And now, the YMCA wants more of these one-bedroom dwellings.
“The beauty is that the units can be moved off site as quickly as they are installed,” says Andy Redfearn of the YMCA, “as we operate on short-term leases – we expect people to stay [in the Y-Cube] for between three to five years, giving them time to skill up and save for a deposit.”
In order to generate a debate on the future of housing, Danish designers Tejlgaard & Jepsen are in the process of permanently reconstructing the People’s Meeting Dome as a gift from BL (Denmark’s Public Housing) and Lokale & Anlægsfonden to the Island of Bornholm and the city of Allinge. Having previously been erected twice as a temporary event space, this final incarnation of the dome will be inaugurated at the next Folkemøde (an annual gathering of Danish politicians), with the intention of becoming a community and event centre for the city.
An IKEA prototype for a modular “Refugee Housing Unit” has been selected as one of three finalists for the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design’s (Icsid) World Design Impact Prize 2014. The pilot project was lauded for providing a “temporary shelter in which facilitates ‘a feeling of normality’ for families living in refugee camps.” The project will be measured against a “BioLite HomeStove” and “ABC Syringe” before an overall prize winner is announced. You can learn more about the unit here and preview the competing innovations here.
Marc Koehler Architects, in collaboration with ONZ Architects, have recently won an invited competition for their design of the Kastamonu Campus in Turkey. Their winning proposal, described as “an asymmetrical star”, embodies excellence and is an endeavor to create the largest high school campus ever designed. Featuring laboratories, libraries, performance spaces, sports centers, a health centre, places of worship, dormitories and 29,000 square meters of educational spaces, the campus is expected to welcome 10,000 students.
Inspired by our wildly popular article “Why Japan Is Crazy About Housing,” CNN has interviewed Tokyo-based author and architect Alastair Townsend in order to dig a bit deeper into why radical design has become more common in Japan. The video features interviews with the residents of House T by Hiroyuki Shinozaki Architects, who share what it’s like to live in a multi-storied home with step ladders and no walls, as well as Sou Fujimoto, who takes us on a tour of his whimsical, tree-house inspired House NA. Watch the video after the break.
Japan is famous for its radical residential architecture. But as Tokyo architect Alastair Townsend explains, its penchant for avant garde housing may be driven by the country’s bizarre real estate economics, as much as its designers’ creativity.
Here on ArchDaily, we see a steady stream of radical Japanese houses. These homes, mostly designed by young architects, often elicit readers’ bewilderment. It can seem that in Japan, anything is permissible: stairs and balconies without handrails, rooms flagrantly cast open to their surroundings, or homes with no windows at all.
These whimsical, ironic, or otherwise extreme living propositions arrest readers’ attention, baiting us to ask: WTF Japan? The photos travel the blogosphere and social networks under their own momentum, garnering global exposure and international validation for Japan’s outwardly shy, yet media-savvy architects. Afterall, in Japan – the country with the most registered architects per capita – standing out from the crowd is the key to getting ahead for young designers. But what motivates their clients, who opt for such eccentric expressions of lifestyle?
By now, we have all heard the mantra. In twenty years time, the world’s cities will have grown from three to five billion people, forty percent of these urban dwellers will be living at or below the poverty line facing the constant threat of homelessness – scary statistics and even scarier implications.
ECOnnect, a Holland-based design firm, envisions a solution for these future housing shortages, one that could build a one-million-inhabitant city per week for the next twenty years for $10,000 per family. Peter Stoutjesdijk, architect at ECOnnect, created the concept after widespread devastation in Haiti caused by a massive earthquake left of hundreds of thousands of people homeless depending on tents for temporary relief.
In recent weeks both the national papers and the London Evening Standard have been reporting dramatic increases in the price of houses in the capital. Up 8% in a year they say. This isn’t great. Rents are also rising sharply. Soon, many, particularly young, Londoners will be trapped, unable to rent or buy. No doubt this is increasingly the case in many big cities. But England is still arguably in a recession, the worst for nearly a century.
In an attempt to find affordable homes people move further away from their work, especially those on low wages, and spend too much of their salary and their time commuting. The cost of housing affects what we eat, whether we exercise and how much spare time we have. It affects our quality of life.
So, this is not about business or property. It’s more important. This is about home. Home is a refuge. It’s our emotional harbour. In fact it is a human right. As the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states: it is ‘the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate … housing’.
Can architects help? Yes. As architects, we need to ask what home actually is, and, how it fits into the city. Indeed, the answer is as much anthropological as it is architectural, as it lies in re-thinking the house itself, in creating – not housing – but homes.
The term ‘green’ is notoriously difficult to define, and even more so when it comes to architecture. An often overused and fashionable way of describing (or selling) new projects, ‘green’ design seems to have permeated into every strand of the design and construction industries. Kaid Benfield (The Atlantic City) has put together a fascinating case study of a 1,700 dwelling housing estate near San Diego, challenging what is meant by a ‘green’ development in an attempt to understand the importance of location and transport (among other factors) in making a project truly environmentally sustainable. In a similar vein, Philip Nobel (The New York Times) explores how ‘green’ architecture is less about isolated structures and far more about “the larger systems in which they function”. Read the full article from Kaid Benfield here, and Philip Nobel’s full article here.
In the wake of two heinous designs for student housing dominating the conversation in the Carbuncle Cup, The Guardian’s Olly Wainwright explores the causes of such poor standards in the field of student accommodation. He explains how the economics and planning regulations surrounding student housing in the UK make it a hugely profitable area of the construction industry, while also making it susceptible to low standards which would be seen as unacceptable in any other housing sector. By contrast, in another article he lists the world’s best designed student accommodation. You can read the full article investigating poor standards here, and his top 10 list here.
Responding to rising sea level predictions and elevated threats of coasting flooding, Perkins + Will design principle Brian Healy has proposed a replicable, floating residential community for Boston’s harbor: Floatyard. In this TEDx, Healy argues that not only would this radical proposal protect coastal housing investments, it could reengage Charlestown’s industrial harbor. In addition to this, Floatyard’s architecture would incorporate solar energy and rainwater harvesting on its roof, as well as capitalize tidal energy from the mooring columns which anchor it.
Foster + Partners have released new images of the luxurious, 18-story Faena House currently being constructed in Miami. Argentinean developer Alan Faena, who is best known for transforming Buenos Aires’ abandoned Puerto Madero neighborhood into the city’s most vital culture center, commissioned the project, which will mark the first phase of the anticipated Faena District in Miami Beach. Once complete, the district will include a five-star hotel, a large and versatile Arts Center, an OMA-designed parking complex, a luxury retail complex, and a marina.