Generic filters
Exact matches only

Idealistic Building

Idealistic Architecture

Architecture is fun. We become architects because we want to create, use our imagination, enjoy our job. And with every project, no matter how ordinary or mundane, we instinctively aim to build in some poetry, romance and adventure.

At architecture school, we're taught to conceptualise ñ to develop a guiding concept right at the beginning of a project, which then informs the design as it evolves. Good architecture begins with a strong idea to organize, understand and give meaning to the huge range of stuff that has to come together to result in a successful building. And once you've come up with a concept, you can give it a name; the Shell, the Doughnut, the Gherkin, the Cloud…


Over my years living in the BVI, I've stored up in my mind lots of concepts for houses which might fit, one day, with the perfect client on the perfect piece of land. So I thought I'd share a few this month.

Raw House
Imagine a house built from materials which are fully intended to weather; to change and evolve over time. Natural, untreated hardwoods and stone, unfinished concrete and patinated metals give the home character and permanence. Consider Cor-ten weathering steel, which forms a rust-like corrosion-resistant coating when exposed to the elements and was developed to eliminate the need for painting. Or choose lime paint and plaster, which are maintenance free, mildew resistant and should look better as they get older. No need to polish this building; just let nature take its course.

Bunker House
On a steep BVI hillside, a house could be dug into the slope, partially covered with earth and vegetation, and blended into the landscape to create a cost-effective, cool and sheltered hurricane-proof space with minimal external visual impact. The house could step down the hill, with stairs connecting double-height spaces. The thermal mass of the surrounding earth and rock keeps the internal temperature low and stable. Wind catchers and ducts can be used to provide natural ventilation, and courtyards to bring natural light into the deeper parts of the space.



Lookout House
The opposite approach: cantilever dramatically out from the hillside, making the most of the possibilities of construction in concrete or wood. Or build up, tall and tower-like, to create elevated spaces with even more spectacular views than usual. Stretching the building up and out can create dynamic relationships between spaces, and between the people in the spaces. Not for agoraphobics or vertigo-sufferers, but if you're going to build on a hillside, why not explore the possibilities, and test your structural engineers to their limits?

Inside-Outside House
In the always warm Caribbean climate, we can actually achieve what generations of architects and home builders have dreamed of: a seamless continuity between inside and outside. Imagine taking this to the extreme, where it's impossible to say if you're inside or out. The house would provide protection from rain and direct sun, but with an inventive roof design and some clever screening, it's possible to throw open the walls to your house, to slide them back until they disappear completely. Internal courtyards and gardens can heighten the effect and make rooms feel much bigger; with space flowing freely, boundaries are dissolved and the house and the landscape are merged.

Cool House
To minimise cost and site disturbance on a steep slope, we often aim to build along the contours, keeping the building narrow, reducing the need for excavation and tall retaining walls. Taking this a step further, we could design an unusually narrow house, to maximise the view on one side, connect to the landscape on the other, and make every space breezy and light. A thin house like this would be very suitable on many BVI sites and may be a good solution for a smaller 2- or 3-bedroom family home where simplicity is important and budget is critical.

Neutral House
Minimise the building's environmental impact, make the home fully self-sufficient and carbon neutral. Reduce energy and water consumption by installing efficient fixtures and appliances, eliminate the need for air conditioning by designing for good ventilation and cooling, install renewable power sources to generate your own electricity from abundant wind and sun, and collect your own rainwater. Create gardens for growing your own food, and composting to process your organic waste. Not an original concept, but very relevant in our island context.

These are all abstract ideas waiting to become real with a fortuitous alignment of concept, client and site. Of course, with each project, the conditions are unique, and as the design process evolves, new concepts emerge. A good designer should be prepared to tailor ideas for individual projects, or to save them for another occasion. I'm still waiting for the right clients for the following projects: the overwater house, the floating house, the underwater house, the tree house, the stilt house, the boulder house;  the list goes on.

Ultimately, the goal is to create an integrated whole. Perhaps the target should be the perfect house: a combination of all the right ideas for the project. This house would be unique, environmentally sensitive, with inexpensive design which sits in harmony with its site, meets all the needs of its owners, and is much more than simply the sum of its parts.

Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter!