According to the architects: “A pouring of lava, on the continental shelf of Africa, in the middle of the Sicilian Channel. Thirty miles from Tunisia. An agricultural complex containing a number of dammusi, the typical construction of the local agricultural population, built with double dry-masonry walls in lavic stone and obsidian, interspaces filled with rubble ‘casciata’: the internal wall supports the vault, the external wall functions as a buttress; a rugged landscape, with severe level variations, each marked by e wall; Mediterranean vegetation (grapevines, olives, holm oaks and prickly pear cacti).
“On the pre-existing dammusi, which were partially ruined, a series of new spaces have been built using the original construction techniques, concatenated around a volume with an apse, with a vaulted roof (height 4.5 m), organised around a sequence of enclosed courtyards that can be used in the summer. The compact character of this allusive village is contrasted by the openness, defined by a simple stucco wall, of the swimming pool, whose border marks the profile of the sea.
“A succession of material identifies the interior: bare stone indicates pre-existing elements. A long pathway in tufa, bordered by a stone wall, leads to a depression of 16 metres below the level of the contemporary Italian house. At the centre of this volcanic depression, terraces have been built to create an open-air theatre.”
Utah-based design studio Axis Architects has designed the H-House project. Completed in 2008, the luxury hilltop residence overlooks Salt Lake City in Utah.
According to the architects: “The H House is a modern residence located high on Salt Lake City’s East Bench on Devonshire. The living spaces of the house are oriented towards the expansive views of the valley and the Great Salt Lake.
“One of the challenges of this project was to allow for the views to the west, while protecting the contemporary Salt Lake City house from the afternoon sun. A large overhanging shading device provides shade and gives a distinctive character to the house.
“The volumes of the contemporary Utah house follow the slope of the terrain and reinforce the integration of the house into its environment.”
According to the architects: “The brief called for a beach house suitable for a family of four, on a vacant site in Voelklip. The site is a long thin rectangular subdivision stretching from the sun facing street and mountain side to the undulating tree tops of the milkwoods and fynbos and the coastline on the south.
“The gently sloping site presented the opportunity for a split-level living space allowing lounge, dining to be placed above the bedrooms on the ground level, all enjoying dramatic sea views. The double volume family room and kitchen form the heart of the contemporary South African home and form the connection between the sea facing accommodation and the internal sunny terraces, pool and garden. The main garden courtyard functions as a large wind free and sunny outdoor entertainment environment.
“Materials were selected to enhance the contemporary South African beach house character of the building while at the same time adding touches of sophisticated detail: white cement screed floors to the public circulation areas; lime washed oak floors to the lounge, dining area and lower-ground floor bedrooms; off shutter concrete ceilings; and external timber decks and pergolas, cladding, screens and shutters providing security, privacy and protection.”
According to the architects: “The main entrance of the house was placed in a southeast orientation to avoid the main road. Plus the extension of the contemporary Spanish home overlooks the best views to the northwest, which in turn overlooks the island of Es Vedra, an iconic element of the southern skyline of the neighbouring island of Ibiza.
“The materials used in this contemporary Spanish property have been formalised with a limited palette of materials. Exposed original stone walls, but covered partially by a new envelope of vertical panels that house the electrical installation and indirect lighting in the 5 cm space remaining between the original wall and the new panels.
“On the ground floor, interior flooring and outdoor terraces are of polished concrete, where expansion joints meet the guidelines for the organisation of the different modules, doors, and on site built furniture.
“External joinery is made of solid iroko wood, like the beams of the traditional house. The interior woodwork is waterproof MDF painted white. In the living room we have added a new fireplace. The kitchen and bathrooms have been finished in a clad of cement with a pavement like finish. The kitchen base units have been executed with marine plywood coated with iroko wood.
“For the interior design a selection of furniture that includes Mediterranean design classics like the Torres Clavé armchairs or the Miquel Mila’s Cesta luminaire, as well as traditional Esparto skating chairs made by local artisans complete the look. The bespoke furniture is mostly made in iroko wood with natural finishes.”
According to the architects: “The client, a New York actor, sought a retreat for relaxation and casual entertaining on a restrictive narrow lot fronting the tidal estuary of Noyack Creek. The contemporary New York house became a study in architectural theatre: a series of spaces in a carefully scripted sequence that subtly reflect his professional life.
“The path begins at the front door where perforated privacy screens slide apart like a curtain, revealing the loft-like living and dining spaces. The direction of the deck boards that make up the flooring is altered to demarcate the path through the space, emerging seamlessly to an exterior waterside deck. A broad stair to the second level, parallel with an interior stair along a glazed wall, acts as tiered seating for entertaining and looking at the water view beyond. Beneath the stair, hidden backstage for maximum privacy, the guest room shares the water view through a nearly hidden sliding door. Guests emerge as if through a trap door.
“Continuing up the stair to the second floor, the final destination is the master suite and balcony. The master bedroom is connected to the bath by a bridge overlooking the public spaces below which are lit by the glazed stair wall. Lined with a guardrail of stainless steel cables recalling a fly loft and catwalk, the path culminates in the master bedroom with its wall of glazing overlooking the water.
“Windows throughout the contemporary New York property are carefully placed to provide the maximum daylight and water views while maintaining privacy from the nearby neighbours and street. The siding system is manipulated for varying degrees of privacy as well. Comprised of Skatelite, a natural resin panel typically used in skateboard ramps, the siding is water-jet cut with tight joints in areas demanding privacy and loosely spaced in other areas to admit light and air. The texture and colour of the siding, in keeping with the budget of the house, reference a black box theatre.
“In the end, a house that could have been limited by its small site and budget was elevated by its conception as a stage for memorable experiences.”