Architecture doesn’t get much edgier than this.
The eye-opening new book ‘Living on the Edge: Houses on Cliffs’ by art and design historian Agata Toromanoff, published by Lannoo, offers a spectacular introduction to an incredible array of buildings that ‘seem to defy the laws of gravity’.
Some of the dwellings that feature in the tome are yet-to-be-realised concepts drawn up by architects, while others have been constructed on rocky mountain peaks, towering clifftops and tumbling hillsides everywhere from Corsica to Canada.
The publisher says of the compendium: ‘Living on the cliffs is undoubtedly an adventurous prospect – the stunning vistas, unspoilt natural surroundings, and the quietness of remote locations with the flair of a hide-out, as well as the proximity to nature, whether an ocean front or a mountain range.
‘From houses that already exist to visions of tomorrow, the projects gathered in this volume embrace challenges such as steep, rocky terrain, limited accessibility, extreme weather conditions, and preserving the natural environment.’
Scroll down to see some amazing architectural designs that truly take the phrase ‘living on the edge’ literally…
ALPINE SHELTER SKUTA, ZGORNE JEZERSKO REGION, SLOVENIA: The ambitious bivouac – a temporary shelter for hikers – ‘looks incredible, immersed into the rocky peaks of the Slovenian Kamnik Alps’ says Toromanoff. A helicopter was employed to install the structure in the high-altitude site, with ‘extreme’ weather conditions such as strong winds and heavy snowfall proving a challenge in the build. Inside, it houses bunk beds, a storage area and a space for preparing food. The author notes: ‘The shelter can accommodate up to eight guests, who can enjoy jaw-dropping landscapes through the glass walls on each end of the building’
CLIFF HOUSE CONCEPT (LEFT): This home – a concept dreamt up by Australian architectural firm Modscape – is not for those with a fear of heights. Fixed to the edge of a cliff, its design is ‘inspired by the way barnacles cling to the hill of a ship’, the book reveals. A lift has been worked into the design to whisk residents from the clifftop to the lower levels of the five-storey abode. Toromanoff says the design is ‘stunning, as it connects the inhabitants with the ocean’. CLIFF OF BONIFACIO, CORSICA, FRANCE (RIGHT): This eye-catching image shows pink buildings atop the ‘water-sculpted’ cliffs of the Corsican town of Bonifacio. Toromanoff says this is an ‘example of how beautifully residential architecture can become one with nature in a most spectacular way’
LA EXTRAVIADA, MAZUNTE, MEXICO: Looking at this plot, ‘one might think it would be impossible to build anything on the steepness of the densely wooded hill’, writes Toromanoff. She notes that the architect proved it was possible, building a house on the site that’s been adapted to the topography of the land. To move through the multi-level property is ‘like climbing up and down the hill’, the author notes. Each structure is designed to ‘resemble stones’, the book reveals, adding that the home overlooks the Pacific Ocean
CLIFF RETREAT, CONCEPT IMAGE: This conceptual home is ‘envisioned in a picturesque cliff landscape [in] Iceland’, Toromanoff writes. ‘The house literally becomes part of the natural surroundings, as vertical concrete plates cut through the rock,’ the book reveals. One of the notable features is a terrace area that’s ‘suspended over the abyss’. The project is designed to open the interior up to ‘spectacular views, fusing the inside with the outside’, the book adds
FEDJE HOTEL, FEDJE, NORWAY: Plans are in place to build this striking hotel (shown as a rendering above) on the small island of Fedje off the coast of Norway. When it’s completed, the structure will create ‘a passage between the natural and built environments’, Toromanoff says. It’ll feature a steep ramp that’s ‘immersed into the layered rock’ and one section of the building will be ‘effortlessly suspended over the ground’ with large windows facing out to sea
PATIO HOUSE, KARPATHOS, GREECE: This clifftop abode, a summer residence for a family, can be found in a chapter titled ‘sliding off the hill’. Set on the Greek isle of Karpathos, it overlooks the Aegean Sea. Its design sets out to ‘create the illusion that the house is hovering over the sea’, the book reveals, adding: ‘The architects envisioned a cantilevered structure that plunges into the surrounding landscape, which not only echoes but also contributes to the dramatic character of the site.’ Toromanoff writes: ‘The placement of numerous differently sized windows was precisely planned to frame the unique views’
CASA EN EL TORON, MAZUNTE, MEXICO: This sprawling property on the Pacific coast of Mexico is surrounded by ‘lush vegetation and steep cliffs’, the book reveals. It says: ‘The plot… is difficult to reach and its rugged topography presents challenges for any architectural concepts, yet the architects did not use any large machinery in the construction process to ensure that the landscape and its flora and fauna remain unspoilt.’ Divided into three parts, the house features ‘common spaces and private bedrooms that are connected by plazas and open paths, with a stunning pool overlooking the ocean on the lowest level of the plot’
CONCRETE HOUSE, PORT DE LA SELVA, SPAIN: ‘On the coastline of the famous Costa Brava, the “Concrete House” is integrated into the landscape in an inventive way,’ writes Toromanoff. The home, built for a family of six, ‘is stretched across two levels with the bottom one skilfully and intimately embedded into the rocky terrain’ of the coastal site. Toromanoff says that the architects ‘tried to gain as many panoramic views as possible’ in the design. The author adds: ‘It feels like this residence sits in the right place, offering inhabitants a comfortable and modern space to live in while enjoying the coastal setting’
THE ROCK, WHISTLER, CANADA: London-based architecture firm Gort Scott is behind this breathtaking design, which was constructed on a ‘complex rocky foundation’ in the Canadian mountain resort of Whistler. Architect Jay Gort tells the author that before drawing up the design, the team spent five days on the site ‘absorbing its characteristics’. The views, local plant life, topography, and even the weather were all taken into consideration and proved ‘critical to the design’, Gort says. The end result? It’s ‘exceptional’, says Toromanoff, writing: ‘The house rises from the rock and is oriented in various directions, divided into a six-bedroom residence and a two-bedroom guest house’
BIVACCO CLAUDIO BREDY, AOSTA, ITALY (LEFT): The temporary shelter for hikers, set amongst the peaks of Italy’s Aosta Valley, is ‘cantilevered from a rocky slope overlooking the Dzioule lakes and the vast sculpted geology of the mountain range’, the book reveals. It says: ‘The structure was brought to the plot at the height of over 2,500m (8,202ft) by a helicopter.’ Inside the ‘cosy’ shelter, a large window offers ‘stunning’ views of the peaks of Grivola and Gran Paradiso. Toromanoff writes: ‘This hide-out is a dream to stay at for all who love mountains and need a rest from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.’ LAKE HOUSE, HYDERABAD, INDIA (RIGHT): ‘These dynamically piled volumes create an eye-catching structure on top of a steep slope with a view of Durgam Cheruvu Lake in Hyderabad, India,’ the book reveals. Toromanoff describes the design as ‘playful’ adding that the structure appears to be ‘floating’
Living on the Edge, by Agata Toromanoff, is published by Lannoo and retails at £45, or at €45