Everyone has a different notion of what an ideal home should be, but for the most part there is little variation among the houses birthed from the post-WWII suburban boom. Modern planned communities tend to offer only a handful of design options, while custom projects are expensive and time consuming. But as homeowners begin shifting toward more sustainable, off-the-grid, DIY habitats, more personal, unique homes are inevitable. Here we look at innovative, bizarre and one-of-a-kind homes and what makes them stand out.
1: Leaf House
Angra dos Reis, Brazil
Background: The roof of this architectural masterpiece looks like a giant flower with six petals, each of which covers a different section of the home. A curved swimming pool works its way through the house before culminating as a small pond stocked with fish and vegetation in the backyard.
Why It’s Unique: Architect firm Mareines + Patalano designed the interior of this house to be free of hallways, providing ample space for the beach winds to blow through. “The idea of hallways stems from production homebuilding, which has so dominated our environment and market place that people see them as a standard,” says Peter Koliopoulos, an architect with 26 years of experience and founder of Arizona-based Circle West Architects. “That is really unfortunate because great spaces are developed in a way that this home has been developed.”
2: Everingham Rotating House
Background: This octagonal house can rotate a full 360 degrees with the touch of a few buttons.
Why It’s Unique: A rotating drive consisting of 32 outrigger wheels and powered by two 500-watt electric motors are used to spin the house on demand, a process that can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. Geothermal heating keeps the house at a steady 71.6 F, and the electrical wiring and plumbing are centralized so that they don’t interfere with the house’s ability to move. The entire cost of the project was on par with the cost of a non-rotating house of comparable size.
3: The Nautilus
Mexico City, Mexico
Background: This seashell-shaped home was completed in 2006. The stone steps running along the shrubs lead to the front door, which blends into the mosaic façade.
Why It’s Unique: Architect Javier Sensonian practices what he calls “bio-architecture,” a style that has led him to design buildings shaped like snakes, whales and several other creatures. The Nautilus was created to imitate a crustacean’s shell, and its cavernous interior is filled with vegetation and small trees. “It’s not common that you would see a home of this design ascetic,” Koliopoulos says. “However, it’s very enlightening and something that we can all learn from.”
Background: Gigaplex Architects created this unusual and award-winning weekend home in 2006.
Why It’s Unique: This house was created by joining together two corrugated grain silos, the largest of which has a diameter of 27 feet. “This is an approach that is akin to sustainability,” Koliopoulos says. “This silo home is a lot of fun and is a neat way to look at an existing product in a creative way.” With a modest size of 1800 square feet, the designers saved space by placing the beds in cubbyholes that are cut into walls, each equipped with their own mini-entertainment systems.
5: Steel House
Background: Artist and architect Robert Bruno has been at work on his steel home since 1974. Bruno has said that he wants the shape of the structure to be somewhere between animal and machine.
Why It’s Unique: Most homes have an initial skeleton that is built upon throughout the construction process, but Bruno has approached this home like a sculpture, building it on the fly and making constant modifications. Koliopoulos points out that the four legs and cantilevered design minimize the structures impact by not disrupting the earth as much as a typical home design would have. Estimated weight of the structure is 110 tons.
6: Subterra Castle
Background: Ed Pedin purchased this defunct missile silo in 1983, but it took about a decade of renovations to make it a livable home. Pumping out more than 8 feet of rainwater that accumulated while the site was inactive was one of many makeover challenges.
Why It’s Unique: Not many homeowners can say their house once stored a four-megaton nuclear warhead. What was once the launch control station, he says, is now a cozy a living space. Transforming a nuclear launch pad into a residential castle has lots of benefits, like an 11,000-square-foot garage and a 1700-foot-long airstrip, which came in particularly useful when Pedin was experimenting with DIY ultra light air craft. Since the completion of Subterra Castle, Pedin has become a mogul of sorts, creating 20th Century Castles LLC, a real estate firm specializing in converting missile silos.
7: Sliding House
Background: This traditional farmhouse was created by London-based dRRM Architects with one major mechanical surprise.
Why It’s Unique: The 20-ton outer shell of this home can be retracted in six minutes, revealing a second, mostly glass, inner shell. Power comes from four 12-volt batteries which run a motor that pulls small wheels, built into the timber shell, along an old set of railroad tracks. This feature gives the owners control over how the house interacts with the surrounding environment, allowing them to make adjustments as seasonal temperatures and light cycles change.
BY CHRIS SWEENEY