Back to Nature
Whether it's a hike in the woods, a night beneath the stars, or a sunny day at the beach, natural inspirations are creeping more and more into residential architecture. Intended to be in sync with their surroundings, these homes may appear out of the ordinary, but their designs are based on common features of the great outdoors like mushrooms and seashells. Click through to see a dozen stunning examples of organic architecture from yesterday and today.
Perhaps the most famous house on this list, Fallingwater was designed by the incomparable Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935. The house represents an attempt by the architect to build a structure both inspired by and integrated with nature. Taking its cues from Japanese architecture, a waterfall on the site, and the surrounding Pennsylvania forest, Fallingwater is considered a consummate success in creating harmony between man and nature.
The Cloud House
Can you guess what natural feature this house mimics? Undulating walls ensure that the cross-section of this remarkable residence resembles a fluffy, floating cloud. Built as an addition to an Edwardian-era home in Australia, the "cloud" is not visible from the street, keeping this little bit of tranquility a well-guarded secret.
Wrapped around a redwood tree in New Zealand, this cocoon of sustainably harvested pine and poplar slats—a treehouse restaurant, in fact—plays host to what must be a most ethereal dining experience. The open-slat design allows light to filter in by day; at night, light emanates from inside, visually setting the cocoon and walkway ablaze.
Inspired by the work of Antoni Gaudí and Frank Lloyd Wright, the Nautilus House in Mexico City was designed by Javier Senosiain of Arquitectura Orgánica to resemble a seashell. The smooth walls and spiral interior create a transporting experience that suggests what it must be like to walk in a cephalopod's shoes—well, shell.
This mushroom-shaped New York abode was actually inspired by Queen Anne’s lace. The five interconnected pods define distinct private and common areas. Texturized walls create a cavelike effect indoors, while a bevy of large windows provides a visual gateway to the woods beyond.
In designing a family’s floating house in Oregon, architect Robert Harvey Oshatz looked to the river that would buoy the structure. The roofline comprises two ‘waves’ on the verge of breaking. Solid walls on either side provide privacy from neighbors moored nearby, and a glass wall that is open to the river offers a view that could easily inspire an cannonball dive on a hot summer day.
The reinforced concrete exterior of this home, designed by Tokyo firm ARTechnic, mimics the organic curves of a shell. The soft arcs of the façade are echoed indoors. Though inspired by a shell, the rounded walls of the interior and exterior evince a futuristic twist that goes beyond nature.
When this flowery dwelling is completed, a wind turbine, ground-source heat pump, and array of solar panels will help it achieve a zero-carbon footprint. The living area of each "petal" will converge underground to create a four-bedroom home. Skylights and expansive windows at entry points will fill the subterranean house with light.
Leaf House #1
This Brazilian home employs an open floor plan to create a strong cross-breeze—important in such a balmy climate. The leaf-shaped roof traps the cool air inside and protects the house from the hot sun. If the distinctive botanical form doesn’t leave you feeling at one with nature, the swimming pool that stretches from the backyard to the indoors might do the trick.
Leaf House #2
Just as leaves provide cover in nature, the copper "leaves" of the roof on this Australian home give shelter to its occupants. Shaped to resemble a cascading pile of fallen foliage, the roof is supported by walls of glass that allow those inside to feel as if they're living within the landscape.
Two freestanding circular structures bookend this Australian home, providing much-desired shade and visually announcing the design as distinct from its suburban surroundings. Even as they shield and unify the living spaces, below, these "lilypads" allow a nearby park to seem almost integrated with the property, establishing a connection between outside and in.
Human-sized Bird's Nest
Well-known treehouse builder Takashi Kobayashi constructed this human-sized bird’s nest for the set of a Nescafé commercial in Japan. Due to the structure’s growing fragility, visitors are no longer permitted, but the treehouse's unique appearance still draws attention in the nearby town and has surely inspired a backyard fort or two.
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