Homes of the future and the present: five ‘green’ projects in architecture

In the hope of mitigating damage to nature, architects are experimenting with “green” materials and creating fantastic designs for houses of the future.

Tree house

Dutch architectural firm Waterstudio has developed a project called Sea Tree. The project is an artificial habitat for plants and animals in danger of extinction outside the

The structure is anchored to the seabed. There will be an above-water part and an underwater part. Birds, fish, rodents and insects will be able to live in the tree-house

Yacht house

The design company Arkup has created a solar-powered yacht house with special panels on the roof. It also has a local waste management system

The yacht house has a special purification system that can turn sea or rain water into fresh and drinkable water. The house can withstand winds of 251 km/h, which is equivalent to a category 4 hurricane

Floating city

Danish architecture firm BIG has developed a concept for a floating city of about 10,000 inhabitants. The project, called Oceanix City, will consist of six islands, each comprising six plots of land, which form villages

Houses will be built from natural and sustainable materials such as timber and bamboo. Oceanix City could save coastal cities, 90 per cent of which face rising sea levels and partial submersion by 2050

A hurricane-proof house

North Carolina-based design company Deltec Homes is developing residential homes designed to withstand hurricanes. The energy-efficient buildings, called Deltec, are circular in shape, allowing wind to circle around the structure instead of concentrating on one side.

Deltec is made of framed lumber that can withstand up to 1,200 kg per square inch – twice as much as conventional material

A plant-based home

British architect Maria Vergopolou has unveiled a micro-home project called Cocoon BioFlos, which people will be able to grow themselves. The houses will be made of thin fibres of bio-plastic produced from sunflower, potato and apple

The internal layout of each home will be tailored to the needs of its occupants. The buildings will be able to adapt to all climatic zones

What they gave the ‘oscar in architecture’, the Pritzker Prize 2021.

Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal find their signature style in West Africa

The Pritzker Prize is the most prestigious award in the field of architecture. It is awarded annually and is considered the equivalent of the Nobel Prize. It was awarded to French architect duo Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal in 2021. In addition to recognition, they received $100,000 and bronze medallions.

Innovation is the main criterion for the award.

Lacaton and Vassal have an unusual architectural handwriting, shaped by their work in Africa.

Who are they – the top architects of 2021 – and what makes their projects unique?

Anne Lacaton, born in France, and Jean-Philippe Vassal, born in Morocco, met in the late 1970s while studying at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture in Bordeaux.

The architects owe their future success to France and Africa.

After graduating from architecture school, Vassal moved to Nigeria to work on urban planning. Anne Lacaton paid him frequent visits. In an interview with Oris in 2003 Lakaton recalled that the simple thatched-roofed, earth-built houses simply turned their minds. Both were struck by the architectural simplicity and the economy of resources in building houses in the desert landscape of the country.

“After a few months of living in Nigeria, we were completely freed from what we had been taught. We started to observe and analyse the details, the way people lived in that context,” Lacaton recalled.

In Niamey, Nigeria’s capital, Lakaton and Vassal built their first project together, a thatched hut made of local bush material. After that project, they made a promise to themselves – not to destroy what can be reconstructed and made sustainable, and to respect the luxury of simplicity.

On their return from Nigeria in 1987, Lacaton and Vassal founded the architectural firm Lacaton & Vassal in Paris.

Simplicity, functionality, spaciousness and the presence of nature were the ground rules on which the architects’ work was subsequently based.

In France, they often experiment with greenhouse technology to create bioclimatic conditions. The architects first used such technology in 1993 when they designed the Latapie house in Floirac. Solar ventilation, a botanical garden and solar shading helped them create a controlled microclimate.

“We studied the greenhouses of botanical gardens, the spectacularly fragile plants, and the play of light in the garden, as well as the ability to simply change the climate,”l Review.

Lacaton told The Architectura

The French duo of architects are committed to preserving the natural environment and old architecture.

For example, they built a private residence in Cap-Ferrat on an undeveloped site along the Bay of Arcachon in order to change the environment as little as possible. Instead of cutting down 46 trees on the site, the architects restored the natural vegetation, elevated the house and placed it in the middle of wooden trunks.

“The past has value, you have to take the time and effort to look at it carefully. That way you can understand how to change an object while retaining values from its past life,”

explains Lakaton.

Lacaton and Vassal are the founders of a new approach to the restoration and construction of social housing.

The architects rejected projects involving the demolition of social housing. Instead, they turned their attention to the interior renovation of dilapidated buildings and the expansion of interior spaces.

Together with the French architects Frédéric Druot and Christophe Hueten, they restored 530 flats in three dilapidated buildings in the Grande Parc in Bordeaux, France. They managed to improve the technical functions of the buildings and avoid having to displace the occupants during the renovation.

“We couldn’t do otherwise. We went to places where the buildings were to be demolished and met people, families who were attached to their homes. More often than not, they were against demolition,” says Vassal.

This innovative renovation of three large blocks of social housing won the European Union’s 2019 Mies van der Rohe Award for Contemporary Architecture. The building was praised for ‘radically improving the space and quality of life of its residents’ and for optimising their economic and ecological cost of living.

With their love of simple materials, the architects are building the most spacious living spaces possible at an affordable price.

They are currently working on the conversion of a former hospital in Paris into a 138-unit mid-rise apartment building, and on private housing projects in Belgium and Germany.
“Good architecture is a place where something special happens, where you want to smile just because you’re here,” shares Vassal. – “It’s also a relationship with the city, with a space that shares its emotions.

1,500 malfunctions: residents of a prestigious skyscraper in New York sue developers

If you live at 432 Park Avenue in Manhattan, you know you have extra-luxurious living space, and your neighbours are just as nice: Singer Jennifer Lopez, a member of the family that owns the tequila brand Jose Cuervo, Saudi tycoon Fawaz Al Khokair, and other millionaires.

At 426 metres, it is the third tallest building in New York City and the tallest residential building in the world. The views from the top floors, 85 in all, are breathtaking, as are the prices for apartments, 104 in total, which start at several million and end in tens of millions of dollars (the most expensive at $95 million is Fawaz al-Hokair’s penthouse with six bedrooms, seven bathrooms and a library).

The skyscraper, designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly on the principle of “pure geometric shape” and built for $1.25 billion, has everything you could wish for, from its own restaurant and fitness centre with sauna and swimming pool to a golf course.

But who would have thought the owners of the apartments would sue the developers for defects in the skyscraper’s construction, and the defects are about a thousand and a half, from stuck lifts and leaking ceilings to monstrous, inexplicable noises.

And yet the skyscraper was only commissioned six years ago, and the flats in it were selling for tens of millions of dollars.

Complaints from tenants and accusations of incompetence by the builders and the company that manages the property were first reported by the New York Times back in February 2021.

The article reported how, in 2018, a leak on the technical floor put two lifts out of service for weeks. Several flats were also flooded, and at least one potential buyer turned down the deal after learning of it.

Among other things, residents of the prestigious properties complained of lifts getting stuck in high winds as a result of the shaft deflecting, creaking noises made by the entire structure, unpleasant vibrations, as well as explosions in the electrical plumbing and the rubbish chute, which, according to one flat owner, made a bomb-like sound, making them shudder every time.

A study commissioned by a group of tenants found that 73 per cent of the building’s electrical, plumbing and mechanical infrastructure did not comply with design plans.

Residents also complained about the exorbitant prices of restaurant services, which are included in the rent. They jumped from $1,200 in 2015 to $15,000 in 2020. The cost of insurance has risen by 300% in just two years.

As a result, residents of the troubled skyscraper have filed a $250 million class action lawsuit in New York Supreme Court against the developers and developers, CIM Group and Macklowe Properties, citing life-risk issues as the cause. However, the amount quoted does not include possible punitive damages, nor the size of individual claims that may subsequently be brought.

“The owners paid tens of millions of dollars for the flats, but instead of the super-luxury apartments they were promised, they were sold a mess of breakdowns and defects,” reads the letter accompanying the lawsuit.

For their part, the developers insist in their own statement that 432 Park Avenue is considered one of Manhattan’s finest residential properties and an invaluable addition to the New York skyline.

To make matters worse, they cite the fact that the management company’s access to some flats is restricted, preventing them from fixing problems, and point to “some particularly vociferous tenants”.

Meanwhile, since the beginning of 2021 and when the lawsuit was filed, only one flat sale has taken place in the skyscraper, although buyers were offered a choice of 11 apartments.

A new world capital of architecture has been named

The International Union of Architects (UIA) together with UNESCO has chosen the Danish Copenhagen as the capital of world architecture for 2023. For the city, the new status means recognition of outstanding construction solutions, taking into account modern requirements for environmental friendliness, reports ArchDaily.

The world capital of architecture is chosen every three years. According to the rules of the competition, in 2023, Copenhagen will host the 28th International Forum (28th World Congress) to discuss the organization of the urban environment. A series of events is planned, focusing on how architecture helps to achieve environmentally friendly and human-friendly development of large megacities.

“Our partnership with UNESCO reinforces the role of urban design to promote cultural values in society. Architects see the world for what it is,” said UIA President Thomas Vonie.

The International Union of Architects was founded in 1948 and is based in Paris. UIA members are engaged in promotion of new concepts and technologies in construction and render assistance to professional communities all over the world. The city of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) was designated as the previous capital of architecture. The forum was held in mid-July 2021 in an online format because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In mid-July the World Design Capital (WDC) competition short-listed Moscow with Mexico’s Tijuana and San Diego in California (USA) in the efficiency of street furniture for economic, cultural and ecological development of the community.

Narrowest house in London

The narrowest house in London put up for sale for more than 1 million euros

The former hat shop has been converted for the life of a single or a young couple. It has a bedroom with a hatch in the floor and a separate floor for washing.

The narrowest house in the British capital was put up for sale for £ 950 thousand (1 million euros).

Built at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the house is located in London’s Shepherd’s Bush. Initially, the building housed a hat shop, upstairs there were living rooms. The building is only 5.5 feet wide, or just over 1.6 meters, and the living area is 96 “squares”. The house is literally squeezed between two other buildings and stands out against their background only in the blue color of the facade.

Now in the basement there is a kitchen and a dining area, on the first there is an entrance group, on the second there is a bedroom, an office and a terrace. The third floor is occupied by a bathroom with a bath and shower, on the fourth there is another bedroom with a double bed in full width. You can climb from the second floor to the third through a spiral staircase, and to the upper bedroom through a hatch in the floor.

The house is worth the money, Dawn quotes the words of David Myers, the realtor of the Winkworth company, which is selling the object. The realtor notes the historical value of the property. An unusual lot is suitable for one person or a young couple, Myers said.

In the description of the object on the website of the real estate agency, it is noted that the space of a narrow house is organized no less comfortably than on an expensive yacht. Advantages of the property include antique parquet flooring, original bathroom decor, quality engineering, a private patio and a private roof terrace.

According to Knight Frank statistics, in 2020, against the backdrop of the pandemic, there was a twofold drop in demand for housing in London. In the spring and summer, a record price decline was also recorded in the local market.


Anyone who dreams of their own home, first of all, wants to see the project of an aesthetically attractive home. The easiest way to make your home spacious and sophisticated at the same time is to create a house project with a second light. What is a second light in a home project? Should I provide for it?

The absence of overlapping between floors does not always mean that the project includes a staircase. If in the project the interfloor overlap covers about half of the area of ​​the first floor, this means that the house has a room with a second light.

In all house projects, a room with a second light is illuminated through windows located on the first and second floor levels. The concept of “second light” means the presence of windows of an additional upper tier in the same room. Double-height spaces are distinguished not only by high ceilings. They have much more natural light and air.

Variants of using a double-height room in projects are limited by the function of a common room. Any ceremonial hall plays such a role, for example, a living room, a dining room, a library.

History of second light technology

A double-height space is a long-familiar architectural and planning technique in residential building projects. Its prototype is considered to be an atrium in an antique residential building, and the time of its appearance can be traced back to the period when, during the era of the Roman Empire, they learned to make glazed windows. They were used for glazing the ceiling (and not the walls of the second tier, as in our time) to illuminate the front room from above.

In the Middle Ages (VI-XII centuries), with the appearance of colored stained-glass windows, not only the second light, but also the third one appeared in the dwellings. The premises became so high that they had a platform at the top for holding knightly tournaments during unfavorable weather conditions. But halls with a lot of natural light were only in the palaces of nobles and aristocrats.

In the era of Gothic architecture (XII-XIV century), the technology of the second light reached its climax. Building technologies now made it possible to erect high floors through the use of columns with buttresses – additional supports. The space between the windows was filled with colored stained-glass windows on religious themes. The architects made natural light colored, and the space became extremely bright and delicate. Only the wealthiest people in the city could afford such housing.

The classical period (XII-XIV century) proved to be the most suitable for the use of the second light. At this time, thanks to the variety of design possibilities, various options for its use began to appear – in a suite, in a space with the use of stairs and mezzanines of the upper tiers, for improved illumination of round halls and rooms. From that moment on, the architecture of the double-height rooms was constantly supplemented and complicated.

Pros and cons of second light


  • High ceilings that everyone who lives in standard apartments wants to have.
  • The lighting system incorporated in the project, which will allow large quantities of sunlight to enter the room. This will be especially appreciated by those who are used to living in an apartment with windows on one side.
  • An opportunity to create a project with interesting architectural forms, original design, attractive artificial lighting.
  • Possibility to complete a project with an unusual facade architecture.


  • Loss of usable area. But if the issue of a deficit of usable area is not worth it, then this drawback in the project can be disregarded.
  • The need to develop a special heating system in the project – floor heating, thermal insulation of the ceiling and walls, non-standard placement of radiators.
  • Household difficulties associated with the maintenance of a high room (the need to wash high windows and lighting fixtures, difficulties in placing textile decor on the windows).
  • Large expenses for arrangement and maintenance.


The second light is a way available to many to make their home not only large and spacious, but also luxurious, similar to a palace from the past. This is a sign of the material well-being of the owners. It doesn’t matter which design you choose – aristocratic medieval or chic classic, ultra-modern high-tech or cozy chalet – this architectural technique will help to create an atmosphere of grandeur.

Twelve-storey wooden house made of CLT panels Valckensteyn

The Rotterdam architecture firm Powerhouse Company has unveiled Valckensteyn, an eco-friendly home that will be Holland’s largest wooden residential building. The project was developed by order of the Woonstad Rotterdam corporation.

Valckensteyn is a 12-storey building 40 meters high. The main material of all floors, except for the first one, will be multilayer glued wood panels. No glue will be used to connect them. This will allow the house to be dismantled if necessary and reassembled elsewhere.

The construction is supposed to be erected in the Rotterdam district of Pedrecht, on a site where a residential complex was previously located. The foundations left over from a building demolished ten years ago will form the basis for Valckensteyn.

It was possible to adapt the old supporting structure for the installation of a twelve-storey building due to the relatively small mass of wood panels. This will reduce not only the cost of finance and time, but also the volume of greenhouse gas emissions accompanying the construction.

The stability of the new house will be ensured by the first floor and the central core made of concrete. The lobby of the building will be faced with travertine, a rock that used to be often used to decorate buildings in the area. According to the architects’ plan, the ground floor of Valckensteyn will house a large, cozy living room “the most beautiful bicycle parking place in Rotterdam”.

“Woonstad Rotterdam as part of the Valckensteyn project has set itself the goal of creating affordable, sustainable housing for middle-income families,” explains Robbert Greneweld, Senior Project Manager. “Woonstad’s commitment to timber construction has been translated into a design that combines sustainability, living comfort and unity with nature.”

Each of the 82 apartments in the house will receive floor-to-ceiling windows and a west-facing loggia. The landscape around the building, designed by LAP Landscape & Urban Design, offers a wide variety of vegetation. The residential complex’s car park, which will look like a living green carpet, will be lined with cement-free paving stones and equipped with a water filtration system.

Construction on the Valckensteyn home is expected to begin in January 2022.

Below sea level at 88 meters, Jade + QA has built a hotel

In China, after twelve years of construction, a hotel opened on the site of an abandoned quarry. The authors of the unusual building are the Chinese-British bureau Jade + QA. According to the architects, the concept of the building is inspired by the place itself and the surrounding landscape, and the structure is built according to the yin-yang principles, which are based on the balance of light and dark, heaven and earth.

Shimao Wonderland Intercontinental Hotel, located near Shanghai, sits at a depth of 88m (with the quarry half-filled with water) and descends 16 stories below ground level. The structure, completely made of glass and metal, consists of three volumes, which are tightly adjacent to the wall of the quarry.

The two lower floors of the building go under the water – they are equipped with a restaurant and additional rooms, from where you can see the underwater aquarium. The two upper ones, on the contrary, rise above the ground – there will be a reception, another restaurant, conference rooms. There is a swimming pool on one of the floors at the water level. The hotel has 337 rooms in total.

The central part of the complex is a glass tower that resembles a waterfall, especially with a spectacular night illumination. There is an elevator inside it, which connects all the buildings of the building, and on top is an observation deck. In addition, on the ground side, the hotel has an exploited roof, on which sports grounds and mini-gardens are equipped.


Heatherwick Studio turns old abandoned coal warehouses into a trendy cluster

Thomas Heatherwick has transformed a Victorian coal depot in London’s King’s Cross, empty since the 1990s, into a new attraction, Coal Drops Yard. The renowned designer and architect has successfully completed his first major project in his firm’s home to the rapidly changing area of the British capital. And the famous platform 9-3/4 at the nearby historic train station has a serious competitor.

Two elongated brick volumes with the remains of old cast-iron railway overpasses stand at a short distance, but not parallel, but gradually approaching, which prompted the main idea. The intricate designs added by the architects make them literally reach for each other and ultimately unite in a sensual touch – almost a kiss. The cover was specially selected in blue-gray slate from the same Welsh quarries used on the original Victorian structures. Thanks to the unexpected curves of these seemingly most banal gable roofs, the covered central part of the entire cobbled public space of the shopping street is being formed.

The buildings of the coal warehouses built in 1850 have been restored in accordance with all restoration standards. Their autistic appearance was preserved as much as possible. Their two-level spaces with wide aisles have proven to be convenient to house more than 50 individual shops, studios, offices, workshops, restaurants and cafes. At the same time, almost all rental properties are individual and unique. They have already lost their desire to place their objects – COS, Aesop, Tom Dixon, Paul Smith, Fred Perry, Joseph Cheaney & Sons, Lavenham, American Vintage and many others. The suspended glazed room in the very heart of the complex will be occupied by Samsung.

In addition to the actual Coal Drops Yard shopping center, the Lower Stable Street area opened in parallel, which also became part of the quarter, but intended mainly for experimental brands, startups, workshops and cafes. So the project promises to become not just another mall, but an active social and creative place with its own unique, very mobile atmosphere and a vibrant program of events.