Hold Onto the Handrails: Home Design Goes Teeter Totter

A new genre of residential architecture lifts and tilts houses from their foundations.

Walter Gropius had a lot more in common with Vitruvius than he let on. The fact is, modernism is a classical discipline, and it places the same value on the classical virtues of balance, order, proportion and scale.


So what happens now that modernism is loosening its long-held grip? In some cases order and proportion are giving way to their opposite: the architectural equivalent of a whirl-a-gig ride. A new crop of residential design, particularly in Japan, puts homes in tilted and dizzy-making postures. So far the trend is not prevalent enough to earn a name. But if it had a label, it might be Slantism. Nor does it come with the rhetoric that often accompanies fledgling design movements. It’s more about an impression, and the modest thrill of sensation.

Dancing Living House

This three-story reinforced concrete house in Yokahama by Junichi Sampei is sculpture as much as architecture. One of the modernist precepts is that function should be expressed on the exterior. But in this case there is no hint of the family apartment and dance studio within. All is subverted to the teetering effect.

Aterlier for a calilgrapher

This atelier for a calligrapher stands at the foot of a mountain in Yamanashi, Japan. The calligrapher wanted a view of the nearby rice fields, so the architects, Mana and Kazuyasu Kochi, obliged him with a prow they say was based on the famous scene of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet on the foredeck of the Titanic.


Michael Rantilla, a North Carolina architect, designed this house for himself on a woodsy Raleigh plot as a vertiginous stack of floors, like children’s tower on the verge of collapsing.

maison zufferey

If Slantism has a practical purpose, it’s that a tilting house makes room to park the car. That’s the case with the Maison Zufferey, a Swiss house designed by Nunatak Architects at a 30 degree angle from the ground.