For most of us, home is four walls containing a place to eat, sleep and relax. We purchase furniture and decorations to make it our own, but other than that there’s not much that separates your home from your neighbor’s. But some homes don’t fit the mold — thanks to innovation, design and imagination, these 10 are something remarkable.
10. The Old Water Tower
Located in Steenokkerzeel, Belgium, just northeast of Brussels, this home has been around since 1941. It was originally a functioning water tower and remained so until the 1990s when its architect, Mauro Brighm of Bham Design Studio, decided to transform the structure. He created a modern livable space with everything that any other house would have within the tower.
Initially the structure did require some repair work to ensure that it would continue to stand, but with that out of the way work began on the beautiful and innovative interior which features many modern gadgets, including an integrated system which is capable of controlling the lights, temperature and music in each room. Garnering the attention of many both in and out of the architectural community, the site was officially designated a protected landmark in 2005.
In Druidston, Wales, there’s an unusual home that’s literally deep in the hills. Sometimes referred to as The Teletubby House due to its resemblance to the home of the creepy TV critters, this home blends almost perfectly into the surroundings.
The entire home sits underground and is topped by an earthen roof. It was designed and built off-site in 1998, because the home sits in protected land where building is barred. The British firm that created the house saw transporting the home to the hill as a way around this issue. This innovative circumvention alone make this one creative home. Over the last 20 years it’s been featured in many publications related and unrelated to architecture, including Forbes and Curbed.
8. The World’s Slimmest House
If you are traveling in Warsaw, Poland, don’t blink or you may miss this place. It’s said to be the world’s slimmest house, although this hasn’t been officially verified. Regardless, it must certainly rank near the top. According to a BBC report, the home was built by Polish architect Jakub Szczesny for an Israeli writer who needed a space to live and work in Warsaw for just a short period each year. Sitting in an alley between two other buildings, it’s just five feet across at its widest point. Despite its size, the architect was able to include all of the basic necessities of a modern dwelling, including a kitchen, bathroom and sleeping cubicle, albeit on a small scale.
7. Free Spirit Spheres
Created by architect Tom Chudleigh, these imaginative spheres are the adult version of a child’s dream tree house. These all-inclusive homes in the trees look new and exciting, but Chudleigh has been building them for over 20 years. He’s the owner and creator of the tree-sphere company called Vancouver Island’s Free Spirit Spheres and was inspired, according to a Huffington Post interview, by the “magic in the forest that you just don’t find anywhere else.” Four of the spheres can be rented by guests year round, so keep them in mind if you’re in the mood for a less traditional hotel.
6. Skateboard House
Only in America would you find a home dedicated to skateboarding in its very design and function. This home in Malibu was built by a French architectural firm, Francois Perrin/Air Architecture. It’s a private residence built for Pierre Andre Senizergues, who’s a former world champion professional skater as well as the founder of Sole Technology. Inside, it’s possible to skateboard in any room, or rather, on any room, as the walls themselves are skateboard ramps. The exterior surfaces are also built to be skated on. It’s completely livable too, and is divided into three segments. The first is for living, cooking and dining, the second is the bed and bathroom, and the third is a dedicated skating area.
5. Transparent House
The transparent house found in Tokyo, Japan is likely to retain its uniqueness for a very long time, because we can’t see this fad catching on anytime soon. At only 914 square feet, this home, built by Sou Fujimoto Architects, consists of three stories containing multiple staggered platforms that serve as rooms in a very loose sense of the term. There are few walls, and those that do exist are made of transparent glass. According to Famous Places, it was inspired by humanity’s ancestors, who lived in trees. People actually do live in the house — the owners wanted to live as nomads in their own home. Privacy was addressed by the addition of curtains that could be placed as needed, but otherwise the couple who occupy the residence are exposed to curious onlookers.
4. Cardboard Houses
Paper screens have been used in Japan for hundreds of years to separate living spaces into rooms. This eco-friendly building material found a new and innovative purpose near Lake Yamanaka in Yamanashi, Japan, when Japanese architect Shigeru Ban created homes out of cardboard. The homes were built using cardboard tubes, which allows for the easy transport and erection of temporary housing for refugees and victims of natural disasters. The design earned Shigeru Ban the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2014.
Ban has traveled the globe, providing help where he can by building his recyclable structures. Some of his work has also been used as places of worship and aid centers at disaster sites, making a difficult time a little bit more comfortable for those in need.
3. The Glass House
The Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut is no longer a residence, but remains an example of innovative design in architecture. The mission of the house and its caretakers is to celebrate, protect and inspire innovation in architecture, art and landscape. This is carried out on the property through exhibitions and public programs which seek to continue the site’s traditional role as a meeting place for creative types. The property is also open to public viewing and tours from May through November.
The house and its efforts today are sustained through donations, as well as through a generous anonymous donor. The house itself was built over a period of 45 years from 1949 to 1995 by Philip Johnson, an architect who graduated from Harvard. Johnson’s architectural feats have been acclaimed since the ’40s and he is responsible for many recognizable pieces, including the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The Glass House, however, remains his most iconic piece.
This Los Angeles home was designed by architect John Lautner. Lautner, a young aerospace engineer at the time, designed the house so that it could sit atop a very steep slope where no other structure would have been able to perch. The octagonal structure resembles a spaceship sitting high atop a concrete column, sort of like the Seattle Space Needle.
The home, despite renovations, is clearly a product of the ’70s, but that’s part of the charm — many see it as a celebration of mid-century American design. It was uninhabited and on the market for so long that the house eventually fell into disrepair, but in 1997 the home was given a second chance when Benedikt Taschen and his wife stumbled across it during their global adventures. The interior was redesigned to fit modern tastes, which breathed new life into the landmark home that continues to operate as a private residence today.
There’s hardly a category of architectural list that won’t culminate in the naming of Fallingwater at the top spot. Located in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, this masterpiece of iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright is familiar to nearly everyone, regardless of their knowledge of architecture and design. Its iconic cantilever design seems to defy the very laws of nature and physics.
It was built in 1935 as a retreat for businessman Edgar Kauffman Sr., the head of an elite family from Pittsburgh who had a reputation for possessing distinctive tastes. The over five-thousand square foot home was completed at a total cost of $155,000, which would be over two and a half million in modern currency. Today, the home serves as a museum to the public and welcomes an average of 160,000 visitors each year.