At One with Nature – Architecture that Morphs into Landscape

Recent architecture projects where conservation, ecological concerns, sustainability and the beauty and fragility of Mother Nature steer construction and design.

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Under Restaurant and Research Centre (Lindesnes, Norway) by Snøhetta

At the southernmost tip of Norway’s coastline, Snøhetta is constructing Europe’s first underwater restaurant that will double as a research centre for marine life. It’s monolithic shape made of meter-thick concrete walls that rest directly on the seabed and breaks surface between a spectacularly rugged coastline.

From the warm oak and aquatic hued interior, the restaurant’s massive acrylic windows offer a view of the seabed and surrounding marine environments. Materials for the décor were chosen not only for their aesthetic qualities, but also for their sustainable characteristics and ability to acclimatize. Advanced heating pump technology harnesses the stable seabed temperature to heat and cool the building year-round.

The concrete shell of the structure has a coarse surface that invites mussels to attach and breed. As the mollusc community thrives, the submerged monolith will become an artificial mussel reef that will help rinse the surrounding sea and therefore naturally attract more sea life to the site.

Under Restaurant and Research Centre by Snøhetta. Image: MIR and Snøhetta
Under Restaurant and Research Centre by Snøhetta. Image: MIR and Snøhetta


The Great Wall of WA (North-Western Australia) by Luigi Rosselli Architects

Built on a remote cattle station as residences for workers during the mustering (round-up) season, this award-winning project from Luigi Rosselli Architects features a 230-metre-long rammed wall, the longest in Australia (and probably the Southern Hemisphere).

The 450mm thick earth wall is composed of the iron rich, sandy clay that is a dominant feature of the site, gravel obtained from the adjacent river and water from a local bore (or ‘hole’). With the rammed earth facade and a sand dune to the rear and forming the roofs, the residences have the best thermal mass available, making them naturally cool in a subtropical climate.

The overall design represents a new approach to remote North Western Australia architecture, moving away from the sun baked, thin corrugated metal shelters to naturally cooled architectural earth formations.

Rammed earth extracted from the local clay pans, pebbles and gravel quarried from the river bed are the palette of materials that blend into the landscape. © Edward Birch


The deep awning roof is designed to keep the sun out during the hottest part of the day and invite the inhabitant to outside and enjoy the cool evening breeze. © Edward Birch

Disappear Retreat (Minnesota, US) by Carly Coulson Architects

The experience of viewing a display of the northern lights was the inspiration for Disappear Retreat, a simple, compact, zero-energy concept from Carly Coulson Architects. It integrates high-tech solutions and minimalist design into an almost invisible structure.

The 25-square-metre dwellings have no active heating or cooling systems, and a peak-heating load of just 100 watts (equivalent to one light bulb) when tested in the extreme cold of northern Minnesota. A mosaic pattern of thin, PV panels integrated into the south glass wall generates all energy needs from the sun, and camouflages the building into the surroundings.

A separate structure (known as ‘the Shed’) houses composting and rainwater treatment systems capable of servicing various Retreat structures on the same site, as well as a photovoltaic system for electric vehicle charging. After the testing period, the Disappear Retreats will be launched into production in 2019.

Landscape architecture. Disappear retreat by Carly Coulson
Landscape architecture by Carly Coulson. Image Courtesy of Carly Coulson Architects


Landscape architecture. Disappear retreat by Carly Coulson
Landscape architecture. Disappear retreat by Carly Coulson. Image Courtesy of Carly Coulson Architects

Sacromonte Landscape Hotel (Madonado, Uruguay) by MAPA Architects

This new hotel from MAPA Arquitects in Uruguay’s premium wine region takes shape with cabins scattered throughout the landscape connected by winding paths. Prefab buildings of light, steel frame were constructed in a Montevideo factory. In contrast, the walls supporting these are built onsite with local stones in diverse shapes and patterns that adapt to each placement.

The façade is composed of a sheet of one-way mirror, covering the cabin with an almost magical effect, and creating a dialogue between nature and technology. Low-emissivity glass, living roofs, the use of local spring water and an eco-friendly waste treatment have been applied in the project.

Sacromonte Hotel by MAPA architects. Example of Landscape architecturE. Image by Leonardo Finotti
Sacromonte Hotel by MAPA architects. Image by Leonardo Finotti


Sommerhus (Skagen, Denmark) by Kassow Arkitekter

“It was important for us to underline the feeling of the house growing from a natural depression in the landscape,” says architect Lisa Kassow of Kassow Arkitekter. “We have therefore divided it into three separate but identical volumes each measuring 6 by 6 meters. They are an extension of each other over three levels, so that the house follows the landscape, almost like a snake.”

The Sommerhus is made of dark wood panels and the roof is coated in the same thick beach grass as its surroundings. In the summer months, it turns golden and thickens and captures the cooler evening temperatures. During the winter it turns to hay and provides thermal insulation.

Sommerhus. Landscape architecture by Kassow Arkitekter in Denmark. Image Courtesy of Kassow Arkitekter
Sommerhus. Landscape architecture by Kassow Arkitekter in Denmark. Image by Kristian Juul Pedersen


Cockpit in Wild Plants (Karuizwa, Japan) by Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP

Situated in a deciduous tree forest that blooms with wild flowers, the overall intent of Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP architects was not to harm the environment and minimise excavation. Therefore, the slope was raised slightly, and above the roof sits a ‘cockpit’; a glass enclosed study in which to observe the surrounding flora at near-ground level. The exterior walls of the home are constructed of stone and timber sourced from the surrounding site, and chestnut and oak trees that had to be cut down were dried and used as porch pillars.

Cockpit House. Landscape architecture by Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP in Japan. Image by Koji Fujii/Nacasa and Partners Inc.
Cockpit House. Landscape architecture by Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP in Japan. © Koji Fujii/Nacasa and Partners Inc.
*Featured image: Under Restaurant and Research Centre by Snøhetta