As cities get denser, and more people spend their lives in cramped, crowded, concrete spaces, the soothing allure of nature becomes ever more appealing–so much so that contemporary architects have begun incorporating natural elements into the structures of homes.
Bringing the outside indoors has been a philosophy in architecture for decades, and counted many midcentury modernists among its fans. But the increased stress of urbanization adds new urgency to this storied trend.
The new book Garden City by journalist and author Anna Yudina shows how architects are integrating the natural world into the physical structures of private homes. Having indoor gardens that blend with the architecture of a home might be the ideal way to combine a life of modern conveniences with the psychological and mental benefits of being in nature. “We cannot go back to the natural nature at this point, and we would not want to,” Yudina says. “But this kind of mutual beneficial coexistence in the urban environment can be a good solution.”
Take, for instance, a home and studio in Japan designed by Takashi Fujino of Ikimono Architects. Fujino built the space for himself, with the desire to be as close to nature as possible. The house has concrete walls, but its roof is made of shatterproof glass to support the growth of trees and plants that sprout directly out of the house’s earthen floor. There’s jasmine growing in the kitchen and a lemon-scented gum tree in the center of the living room.
Another home in the book integrates plants into the walls themselves. Called “Stacking Green,” it’s a private residence in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, with a wall that acts like a series of vertical planters. It’s not just decorative (though it does look especially beautiful in the bedroom). The plants also protect against harsh sunlight and the noise and pollution of the bustling city outside. Their presence, combined with the house’s permeable facade, open layout, and interior courtyard, ensures natural ventilation–the four-story house needs very little electrical air conditioning.
Other houses are less traditional and more open to the outdoors. One, called Cut Paw Paw, is located in Melbourne, Australia. The house’s inhabitants asked Austin Maynard Architects to build them something where there was a strong connection between the inside and the outside–but the architects took it to an extreme, creating a structure that almost looks half-completed. The structure is in fact finished, but there’s little delineation between the natural world outside and the home’s interior. The bathtub is open to the air, as are most of the rooms. Gorgeous? Yes. Practical? No. But sometimes you have to suffer for nature.
For more beautiful houses that embrace the outdoors, check out the slide show above.