Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Room in First Class; an Inspiring New Book on Housing Design Focuses on Groundbreaking, Quirky and Enviable Homes around the World

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Room in First Class; an Inspiring New Book on Housing Design Focuses on Groundbreaking, Quirky and Enviable Homes around the World

Article excerpt

Byline: FAY SWEET

ONE of the most admirable (and unsung) qualities of architects is their boundless optimism. No matter how difficult the site, how troublesome the planning system or tricky the brief, they'll work to find a solution.

Plenty relish a tough challenge: they'll tell you it can produce the most exciting and interesting results. And it's this optimistic urge that drives architects to design the perfect home; it's the ultimate laboratory of ideas.

A fascinating collection of these experiments from around the world has been drawn together in the book, New Home, Architecture & Design, written by architect James Soane.

Refreshingly, this publication isn't aimed primarily at an architectural readership (although many professionals will enjoy it).

Soane starts with a whistle-stop tour of housing through the ages, and then takes a more leisurely stroll through the evolution of the modern home, new and intriguing building techniques and materials, the changing designs of interiors and the challenges of building in cities.

The author reminds us that not all patrons of the Modern style were thrilled with the results: American Edith Farnsworth was "horrified" when she saw the designs for her now world-famous home in Illinois designed by Mies van der Rohe. Soane also points out that Utopia can be elusive: while Le Corbusier's famous tower block, the Unite d'Habitation of 1953, works well in its sunny Mediterranean setting, the idea lost something by the time it arrived on estates in Manchester, the Gorbals and the East End.

However, Soane does not dwell on the disasters, focusing instead on homes that are beautifully photographed and packed with ideas. On a small scale, there are balconies with slatted timber pull-down blinds; a stunning all-white, inside/outside bathroom with glass top; and a timber-lined roof terrace which resembles the deck of a yacht.

Then there are bigger ideas: the Parasite House built in Rotterdam by architects Korteknie and Stuhlmacher which, as its name suggests, is designed to perch on the top or edges of old buildings like a sort of urban tree house. …

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