Design, creative, and compositional freedom: the Villa
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Design, creative, and compositional freedom: the Villa

Parisotto + Formenton Architetti | Malik Architecture | Mecanoo | Mino Caggiula Architects

Design, creative, and compositional freedom: the Villa
By Redazione The Plan -

Private homes are our most precious asset – even more so if we’ve had input into their design or renovation. I’m referring specifically here to villas, which I’ll define as a home that’s often elegant, has a garden, and that’s often in a natural setting. In other words, freestanding homes occupied by a single family in their own private space.

Because of the creative and compositional freedom they offer, villas are often an important opportunity for architects to showcase their ideas and skills. The relationship with the client is, of course, fundamental, but there’s no doubt that many iconic buildings were created as private homes. Some good examples are Palladio’s villas, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, and Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye – all representative of Le Corbusier’s Five Points of a New Architecture or the International Style.

But there’s no need to delve into the past to find architects who’ve chosen to live in their prototype homes. Frank Gehry's first house in Los Angeles, featured in Sydney Pollack’s famous documentary Sketches of Frank Gehry, showcases his extreme creativity and unmistakable style, the product of experimentation, improvisation, and imagination. In the same way – but with an almost opposite set of objectives – Philip Johnson built his Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, a fully glazed home set in the woods, expertly examined in the docufilm Philip Johnson: Diary of an Eccentric Architect. And there’s no overlooking Werner Sobek, the German architect to whom The Plan dedicated the documentary The Architects Series: Werner Sobek, whose own home expresses the essence of his Triple Zero House philosophy: that is, a house that doesn’t use energy from fossil fuels (zero energy), doesn’t emit greenhouse gases (zero emissions), and doesn’t produce waste because everything is almost completely recyclable (zero waste).

The design freedom typical of private home design not only involves aesthetics but also extends to the technological and functional levels. When an architect is dealing with a single client, it’s often possible to trial new ideas and, depending on the budget, equip a home with innovative alternatives that haven’t been tried before.

Many private homes today already encompass emerging trends that will probably become common practice in the design of future homes. A good example is the move towards construction materials that are more natural, less chemical based, and recyclable, while able to create comfort and wellbeing. We can already see the impact of smart home automation, with homes increasingly controlled and remotely controllable via intelligent surveillance systems, automation systems for shading that learn how to optimize energy savings, automatic cleaning devices, and so on. The design of spaces for outdoor living is set to become increasingly important in the design of private homes, as architects break down the divisions between inside and out, and turn the outdoors into a true extension of the inside living space.



The Villa category of The Plan Award 2021

Over the years, the Villa category of The Plan Award, an annual international award for excellence in architecture, interior design, and urban planning, has attracted numerous examples of private homes that have achieved excellence in contemporary architecture. In addition to its nineteen other categories, The Plan Award 2021 will again feature the Villa section, dedicated to single-family homes with gardens. The registration deadline is May 31.

Read more about participating in The Plan Award 2021.

The following projects are all from past editions of The Plan Award.


The House of Three Streams: A home woven into the landscape

The topography of the site, the material memory of the surrounding forts, the light of the forest, and the ravines dug out by underground rivers all contributed to the context in which this house was designed. 

Located in a striking natural setting in an area of India subject to monsoonal rains, the home is far enough from the hectic lifestyle of Mumbai for its owners to fully enjoy the sense of refuge and refreshment offered by the location, while not having any concerns about feeling isolated. The mountains that form both the near and distant horizons for the home, situated at around 2700 feet (830 m) above sea level, set the mood of the entire landscape, simultaneously framing the precious natural area that the architects have made one of the essential elements of the design.

Read more about the project in English.


A farm and private home

Occupying around 18.5 acres (7.5 ha) of countryside not too far from the historic town of Treviso, the site of this project is currently used for growing assorted crops. The client commissioned the construction of farm buildings and an adjoining private home, planning to use the land to grow herbs, fruit, and edible flowers.

The buildings will be located near the center of the property. From this location, four long axes will extend outwards, dividing the surrounding land and giving order to the different crops. The buildings are set along the same axes, occupying two parallel lines and connected by a third orthogonal one. The home will be built to an H plan, its three sections enclosing a large courtyard area that will form the fulcrum of the house as a space detached from the boundless countryside beyond. The home itself is designed to open onto this space in a contemporary reinterpretation of the traditional farmyard.

Read more about the project in italian


Atelier Alice Trepp: an artist’s studio and living space

With her sculptures, Alice Trepp sets out to immortalize the fleeting moments of life. As architects, we’re often regarded as artists, but true artists create works of art. Artists work with their subject; architects create works in which life takes place. From design inspiration to the act of creation, countless relationships are formed with clients, specialists, and workers, all in terms of budgets and deadlines.

Atelier Trepp grew out of both the place and the person. Designing an artist’s workshop first involves interpreting their unique vision of this place of reflection and creation. Atelier Trepp is both a studio and a living space. This is a theme that’s intrigued generations of artists, who’ve designed for themselves, or entrusted someone else with the difficult task of designing, a space – in a certain sense, an ideal – that’s conducive to both the physical creation of art as well as the thoughts and philosophy of the artist. Partially underground, the project has been integrated as closely as possible into the sloping topography of the site, revealing itself to the eye in the best possible way.

Read more about the project in italian

Buy the book Open Being: Mino Caggiula Architects.


Villa Vught: reinterpreting the Dutch farmhouse

This project, located in the Dutch countryside not far from Vught, brings a contemporary touch to traditional farmhouse design. Traditionally, the Dutch hoeve is a collection of farmhouses and lodgings, grouped around a central courtyard. This space is therefore protected but also opens to the surrounding countryside. And this is the feature that guided the design of this villa.

Villa Vught is organized into three separate parts, which together suggest a small village. The two lower buildings resemble typical gabled barns and are directly connected to the surrounding gardens. The higher building offers views over the surrounding landscape, in stark contrast with the lower buildings.

Read more about the project in English.


If you’ve designed a Villa or single-family home with a garden – completed after January 1, 2018 or yet to be completed – you have until May 31 to register for the Villa category of The Plan Award 2021. Submit your project via the registration page.​

All credits relating to photos refer to individual articles

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