AIA Names 10 Most Impressive Houses of 2014

Sol Duc Cabin; Seattle / Olson Kundig Architects

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has selected ten recipients for their 14th annual Awards. Considered to be the year’s most impressive works, the awards are designed to “recognize the best in U.S. housing design” and “promote the importance of good housing as a necessity of life, a sanctuary for the human spirit and a valuable national resource.” The winners, after the break… 

Urban Think Tank Takes on Housing in South Africa’s Townships

Despite 20 years of government promises to improve the quality of following the end of apartheid, for many in South Africa‘s townships there has been little noticeable change. This is not to say that the South African government has not been working to meet these goals; however, the scale of the problem is so large, and with population growth and migration, the challenge is only getting greater.

That’s why , in collaboration with ETH Zurich and South African NGO Ikhayalami, have worked together on a design for a more immediate, incremental solution called “Empower Shack.

A Brief History of the Windowless House

The Vertical Glass House (2013), built at the West Bund Biennale of Architecture and Contemporary Art, Shanghai. Image Courtesy of Atelier FCJZ

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

The Freakonomics Podcast Tackles the Question: Why Is Japan Crazy About Housing?

House NA / Sou Fujimoto Architects. Image © Iwan Baan

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:

The Winners of d3 Housing Tomorrow 2014

Courtesy of d3

d3 has just announced the winners of its annual Housing Tomorrow competition, a 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.

Richard Rogers’ Pre-Fab Y-Cube Takes on UK Housing Crisis

The Y-Cube Deployed. Image Courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

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 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.”

Tejlgaard & Jepsen Transform a Temporary Geodesic Dome Into a Permanent Structure

Courtesy of Tejlgaard & Jepsen

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

Refugee Housing Unit Selected as Finalist for World Design Impact Prize

RHU via World Design Impact

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) 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.

Round-Up: 5 Striking Examples of Social Housing

Hatert Housing by 24H Architecture. Image © 24H architecture

For many people, there is an unfortunate stigma attached to social housing. Fortunately, some countries have realized that one of the best ways to combat this stigma is through good design, leading to some striking and unusual blocks in countries such as Spain, France, Slovenia and Belgium. This article on the blog Best MSW Programs has a list of the top 30 social housing blocks worldwide, but here on ArchDaily we’ve collected 5 of our favorites: Elemental‘s Monterrey Housing, the Tetris Apartments by OFIS Architekti, Savonnerie Heymans by MDW Architecture, 24H Architecture‘s Hatert Housing and KOZ Architectes‘ Tête en l’air. You can also see the top 30 list here.

Marc Koehler and ONZ Design Massive, “Ultra-Modern” Campus in Turkey

View. Image Courtesy of Marc Koehler /

Marc Koehler Architects, in collaboration with ONZ Architects, have recently won an invited competition for their design of the 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.

AIA Focuses on Neighborhood and Community Growth for Q3/2013

Americans are indicating that they prefer higher-density, more walkable neighborhoods. Image Courtesy of

The AIA just released its third quarter Design Trends Survey for 2013. Key findings have been made since the previous survey, specifically on neighborhood and community trends.

Inside Japan’s “Crazy” Housing

House NA / Sou Fujimoto Architects. Image © Iwan Baan

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.

Why Japan is Crazy About Housing

House NA / Sou Fujimoto Architects. Image © Iwan Baan

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?

Puzzle-Piece Homes, A Solution for Rapidly Growing Populations

Courtesy of ECOnnect

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 shortages, one that could build a one-million-inhabitant city per week for the next twenty years for $10,000 per family. , 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.

London Calling: How to Solve the Housing Crisis

Nakagin Capsule Tower / Kisho Kurokawa. Image Courtesy of arcspace

In recent weeks both the national papers and the London Evening Standard have been reporting dramatic increases in the price of 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.

What Does Being ‘Green’ Really Mean?

Rendering © Herzog & de Meuron. Image Courtesy of Perez Art Museum Miami

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 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.

The Real Carbuncle: The Low Standard of Student Housing

Baker House tops Wainwright’s list of the world’s best student . Image © Wikimedia – dDxc

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 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.

TEDx: Brian Healy Proposes to Reactivate Boston’s Harbor with Floating Communities

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Responding to rising sea level predictions and elevated threats of coasting flooding, Perkins + Will design principle has proposed a replicable, floating residential community for Boston’s harbor: Floatyard. In this , 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.