What Is Next for Our Homes' Exterior Design?

Humankind’s approach to living space has always been influenced by the basic necessities of life: shelter, comfort and protection. But how this has influenced the external expression of dwelling spaces has changed enormously over time. As society has grown, economic, social, cultural, environmental and political factors also have shaped how and where we live, and the sort of dwelling we live in.

Here we take a look at outside facades — the outer skin that separates and protects the people from the outside world — and what may have influenced the architect. We are going to begin with a glimpse back in time to look at some of the forms of dwellings our ancestors built. A number of these buildings are still lived in today, frequently with minimal modifications.

Today greater options of materials and construction methods enables us more room for self-expression, but we cannot dismiss our basic requirements for protection and shelter. Our present challenge is to continue to adapt sensibly to a fast changing world.

Dorman Architects

Safety and Shelter

On high ground: Castell Cabrera, Ille de Cabrera, Majorca, Spain (16th century). By necessity, in previous times many people lived in great defensive structures, such as the Norman and Venetian castles scattered throughout Europe. These demanding solid and nearly windowless structures protected their populations but also gave rulers the external expression of invincibility and fantastic power.

Dorman Architects

Walled: Historical road, Fez, Morocco (13th century). Traditional buildings across the Middle East and North Africa were inward looking and surrounded by sterile walls, which provided protection from the extremes of the harsh climate. The narrow, winding streets of the great medinas of Morocco barely hint at the beautifully decorated temples with their inwardly focused courtyards concealed behind their plain outside subway walls.

Subterranean: Troglodyte home, Matmata, Tunisia (Roman period). Throughout the globe many dwellings were under the ground or dug in the mountainsides, and had little apparent observable presence aboveground. In Cappadocia, Turkey, interlinked dwellings carved into the ground combine to form intricate underground villages. In Tunisia’s desert, subterranean dwellings are virtually invisible until you stumble upon a sizable crater excavated to the ground with subterranean rooms opening onto it. The place for Luke Skywalker’s home in Star Wars was one such arrangement.

Dorman Architects

Shelter and Self-Expression

Elegance: Mountjoy Square, Dublin, Ireland, by Luke Gardiner and Thomas Sherrard (1790). At 18th-century Dublin, the Georgians built long, uniform redbrick terraced streets punctuated by a regular rhythm of window openings. The exteriors presented a restrained and uniform formality, while inside the walls and ceilings were adorned with lush plasterwork. Some 100 years later, the Victorians turned these inside out by lavishly using the decoration to the outsides of the homes.

Transparency: Edith Farnsworth House, Plano, Illinois, by Mies van der Rohe (1951). Priorities began to alter over time. Today scale, construction, form and substances continue to contribute to the external appearance and reflection of our homes. Houses can express or hide their internal or structure design, depending how they are dressed up. The positioning of doors and windows may give us clues about what lies behind the facade.

Studio Carver Architects, Inc..

Translucency: Santa Ynez barn, Santa Barbara, California, by Carver + Schicketanz Architects. Why would we like the look of a single home and not another? Opinions on which constitutes a “good” or “lovely” home can differ much in the way a sculpture or painting can. Being presented with a strange house can challenge our preconceptions of what we believe a home must look like. While some may feel more comfortable with a conventional home, others may go outside of their comfort zone to seek out an option.

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Princeton Architectural Press

Solidity: The Pierre, Lopez Island, Washington, by Olson Kundig Architects (2010). While a totally glazed house can leave little to the imagination, a home with sterile walls, on the other hand, may make it hard for all of us to see it.

Princeton Architectural Press

Shade: Live/Work/Home, Syracuse, New York, Cook+Fox Architect. An abstract form can leave us puzzled and curious.

Nick Noyes Architecture

Simplicity: Healdsburg residence, Fitch Mountain, California, by Nick Noyes Architecture. Our options are seemingly endless. Some may choose a simple utilitarian home dressed with minimal substances, while others may opt for elaborate contours and profuse decoration.

Privacy: White U, Nakano-ku, Tokyo, by Toyo Ito (1976). Some may choose to retreat behind an impenetrable enclosure at a desire for solitude or for refuge from a hostile environment. Alternatively, others may prefer to open until the world with walls of glass.

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Shinberg Levinas Architectural Design

Invisibility: Naim residence, Washington, D.C., by Shinberg Levinas Architectural Design. Some might prefer the understated or, taken farther, chameleon-like homes that virtually disappear in the landscape.

Princeton Architectural Press

Dynamic: False Bay Writer’s Cabin, San Juan Island, Washington, by Olson Kundig Architects (2009). Those settled may opt for something more lively and portable. Others may seek out a home with the capability to transform itself determined by the time of day the seasons or occupancy standing with the use of devices such as sliding or folding displays.


Dream: Fallingwater, Pennsylvania, by Frank Lloyd Wright (1937). The majority of people are stimulated by the prospect of residing or perhaps building their dream home. Architects are stimulated by the exciting challenges of realizing those dreams.

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Next: Enjoyable solutions by modern architects operating from the high-desert regions in Idaho to tight urban sites in Tokyo, to the leafy suburbs of Utrecht, and lots of places in between.

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