Historically, man may have used architecture as a tool to demonstrate his domination over nature—to remake the world, landscape, and environment as he saw fit.
Thankfully, those days are over. Modern architecture, on both the small scale and large scale, is increasingly focused on ensuring that architecture and landscape are designed to interact and enhance each other. Instead of architecture dominating over the land that it is situated on, the goal is to design a building—whether a home, a university, a corporate office, etc.—in harmony with the land.
This is a principle that we live by, and which forms a core tenet of our design philosophy. Our home designs blur the boundaries between the natural and the built in order to maximize the homeowner’s connection to their natural surroundings and the unique qualities of their site.
Sometimes this means that an entire home is built to take advantage of a sweeping view; others, it may be as simple as preserving an aged tree, or building around other natural elements instead of obliterating them.
Below are five modern house designs that we feel perfectly sum up the intertwined, symbiotic relationship that should exist between architecture and landscape.
The Blue Sail residence was extensively remodeled with its location in mind. Materials and color palette were chosen specifically to celebrate the site and views. A small courtyard located at the entrance of the home features a mature olive tree, at once creating a sense of privacy and reminding visitors of their environment in this entry sequence. The interior of the house was changed to offer uninterrupted views of the ocean from as many rooms as possible.
Consisting of multiple independent structures, the Waverley house was designed to consciously respect the site on which it is situated. The result is that the boundaries between indoor and outdoor blur, allowing the owners to take advantage of a backyard filled with mature oak trees. Naturally canopied by tall oak trees, the site captures natural light while simultaneously creating a sense of privacy.
The 19th Street residence features a large, centralized living space that opens out directly into the backyard with sliding doors. The landscape comes very close to the border of these sliding doors, helping the home feel at one with its environment. When the doors are open this helps to create one large, fluid living space for the homeowners to enjoy.
Located on a heavily wooded plot of land, every detail of the Spring Road house was designed and built in order to take advantage of the stunning 270-degree views that the site offered of Mt. Tamalpais and the San Francisco Bay. These views are emphasized by the design of the second floor, which pushes out over the main living area in order to capitalize on the wraparound views. Old-growth redwoods and California oaks surround the home, creating a world away for the owners. Earthy materials and a neutral color palette are used throughout the structure in order to not distract from the environment, but enhance the site so the house and landscape have a symbiotic relationship.
Located in a private beach community in Southern California, the Irvine Cove residence's design and layout takes full advantage of sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, so the architecture is framing views. No matter where in the house you stand, it is impossible to avoid the natural beauty of the environment around you—this design decision was a reflection of the owner’s lifestyle and passions.
We believe modern architecture should seek to find a balance with the particular characters of the site in which it sits. Using materials that harmonize with landscape, and designing around natural elements like aged trees or hillsides are some ways EYRC seeks to find balance between landscape and architecture in their residential work.
Natalie LaHaie is the Business Development and Marketing Director at Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects (EYRC). She is a graphic designer by trade and a natural strategic thinker, employing design to express vision, direction, and values. With over a decade of experience in the field of architecture and design, she admires the role of architecture in bringing people together from all backgrounds and walks of life - specifically through community, education, and civic buildings.