How’s the new kitchen office setup? Have you Marie Kondo-ed your entire house within a very tidy inch of its life yet? With the new life norm of social distancing and self-isolation, the AFP has estimated that approximately 900 million people (roughly 600 million are under government mandates to do so) from in at least 35 different countries are staying inside, many working from home, to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
With subtle differences from country to country, and even region to region, our homes vary according to building materials, economy, demographics, and population, but they are, by and large, fairly similar. To celebrate the architecture, designed for dwelling, that has now, in many cases, become the one place to do everything, let’s look at some of the world’s most interesting, unusual, beautiful, and flat out zany houses.
The “S-house” | Saitama, Japan
This house designed by Yuusuke Karasawa Architects in 2013, a Japanese practice, gives living in glass houses new meaning. Sleek, white, and glass all-over, the S-house puts everything on display. Inside, a series of levels and half-levels create various rooms with few boundaries that were achieved by using algorithms to incorporate as many diagonals as possible. By the stairs, you get the sense that M. C. Escher would swoon over the mind-boggling design.
Dr. Seuss House | Willow, Alaska
No one knows a lot about this house, but it looms large over the Alaskan wilderness and it’s understandable as to why it was named the Dr. Seuss House. Each of its 12 precariously balanced stories create a spindly tower that measures in at 185 feet and it offers views of Mount McKinley and Denali National Park on clear days. More mysterious than its design was that the structure sat unfinished and empty for 15 years. A local Alaskan radio station once did some digging and found that the house, whose official name is Goose Creek Tower, was bought by an attorney, partially built on the ground and then lifted into position by a crane, and its finish date is still unknown.
The Steele House | Lubbock, Texas
There is no easy way to describe artist and inventor Robert Bruno Jr’s Steele House. Bruno began the project in 1973 and worked on it until his death in 2008. The house wasn’t something Bruno felt could be rushed and viewed it more as a labour of love. In all, around 150 tons of blackened steel went into the house, each sheet having been welded together by hand. Unfortunately, the house was never completed, and today it remains as it was. Cracks between its floors, and the places that Bruno intended to become a pool, an aquarium, or to be filled with plaster cast nude models are still unrealized. Today, the Steel House is managed by Charles Hobbs, who was one of Bruno’s neighbours. To best honour the late artist, Hobbs has chosen to leave the house as it is and it is open for visitors to tour.
Palais Bulles | Cannes, France
The house with perhaps the most fitting name, Palais Bulles (which translates to “Bubble Palace”) took Hungarian architect Antti Lovag nearly 15 years to complete. Now owned by Pierre Cardin, a fashion designer, the bubbly series of rooms overlook the Mediterranean Sea. The sprawling home features 10 bedrooms, a number of swimming pools, and an outdoor amphitheatre. When Cardin bought the property as a vacation home in 1992, he worked with Lovag to transform it into even more of an “architectural folly.” The home boasts rooms decorated by artists like Patrice Breteau, François Chauvin, and Gérard Le Cloarec.
“X-Lands” | Concept
Offshore drilling platforms are one of the architectural remnants that will one day outlive their purpose as our dependence on oil dwindles. XTU architects are taking another look at the platforms, though, to show an alternative use for them. They have proposed the X-Lands – a series of otherworldly residential oases built on existing offshore platforms. Though the project hasn’t come to life yet, they envision how we might expand past the coastline and onto the ocean. While XTU hasn’t actually transformed an platforms, their vision is similar, though a little more aesthetically pleasing, to Frying Pan Tower, a disused Coast Guard lighthouse 34 miles off the coast of New Bern, North Carolina. It’s now a B&B for thrill-seekers (it’s located in Hurricane Alley) and it gives a glimpse into the kind of possibilities that X-Lands could bring in the future.
Hobbit House | Wales
Lord of the Rings enthusiasts might already know this Welsh abode but its whimsical design is worth revisiting. Simon Dale, a designer and builder, created and built the home for he and his family in just four months for just £3,000. Nestled into a hill using trees as a natural structure, the Hobbit House is considered to be one of the eco-friendliest houses in the world. Dale, with the help of his father-in-law and friends, used stone and mud to build the house’s foundation before using straw bales to construct the floor, walls, and roof. It might not be for everyone, but the Hobbit House represents a divergence from today’s usual manners of building, proving that innovative architecture doesn’t have to be modern.
Keret House | Warsaw, Poland
Your Brooklyn studio apartment or central London flat might be tight on space, but architect Jakub Szczesny’s narrow house is a mere 122 centimetres wide – at its widest. Quite literally squeezed between two buildings in the heart of Warsaw, Szczesny was first inspired by the vacant space. He considered what that space could be used for and, if inhabitable, who would want to live there. Szczesny got in contact with Etgar Keret, an Israeli writer and filmmaker whom the house is named for, and the pair collaborated on the project. The result is a minimalistic triangular house that allows for a short bursts of living for the person with the right sense of humour, according to Szczesny.