10 of the Best Houses from the Last 25 Years

Architakes launches its Lists category with 10 great houses.  If there’s a common thread, it’s the way good design makes more from less.  In chronological order: 


Magney House, Bingie Point, NSW, Australia, 1982-84

Glenn Murcutt, Architect

Murcutt’s houses reflect the life-simplifying advice of Thoreau.  Typically only one room deep, their interiors are intimate with nature.  A half-dozen Murcutt houses might have made this list.  Their agrarian vernacular forms and materials impart a humble dignity and cheerful informality that’s pitch perfect to their landscapes.   Murcutt has designed more great houses than any living architect. 

The publisher TOTO’s complementary volumes, The Architecture of Glenn Murcutt, and Glenn Murcutt: Thinking Drawing/Working Drawing, both by Gusheh, Heneghan, Lassen, Seyama & Browell, 2008, respectively have the best photo documentation and architect’s drawings.  Glenn Murcutt: Buildings + Projects 1962-2003 by Francoise Fromont, 2003, Thames & Hudson is also an excellent work.  The Magney House is covered in detail in Three Houses: Glenn Murcutt / Architecture in Detail by E.M. Farrelly, 1993, Phaidon. 


House in Almere / Benthem House, The Netherlands, 1982-84

Benthem Crouwel Architects

Benthem Crouwel designed this house for an “unusual homes” competition and as a prototype for mass production.  It’s portability gives it a jump on sustainability, and in fact the house has been relocated from its exhibition site and is now the home of Jan Benthem and his family.  Its minimizing of materials and weight not only make it more economical, but establishes a compelling aesthetic of lightness.  

This house is particularly well documented in Prefab by Allison Arieff and Bryan Burkhart, 2002, Gibbs Smith.


F3 House, Tokyo, 1994-95

Koh Kitayama, Architect

Designed for a bachelor, this house has a ready-made greenhouse as its outer envelope and a small, private inner box containing the necessities of daily life.  The rest of the space enclosed by the greenhouse is used for parties and parking.  Instead of drawing blinds, the owner retreats into a more private core.  The F3 house raises possibilities for use of the garage as swing space for living functions - already in play in suburban America – and also for the creation of a new kind of semi-outdoor zone between inner sanctum and true outdoors.    

F3 House is documented with floor plans, sections and photos in Koh Kitayama On The Situation 1993-2002 by Koh Kitayama, 2002, TOTO.



Bombala Farmhouse, Bombala, New So. Wales, Australia, 1998

Collins + Turner, Architects

This prefabricated house carries the DNA of Marcel Breuer’s mid-century “binuclear” houses which placed living and sleeping functions in separate distinct wings.  Here, living is under the high roof, with maximum daylight, while sleeping is under the low roof.  The economy with which this house achieves its sculptural expression and quality of space is the soul of wit.  

This house is particularly well documented in Prefab by Allison Arieff and Bryan Burkhart, 2002, Gibbs Smith.




House and Studio at Toro Canyon, Montecito, CA, 1997-99

Barton Myers, architect with Vicki Myers

The architect’s own home, this house assembles off-the-shelf industrial components, including garage doors, in a way that yields sumptuous results.  In a variation on Kitayama’s F3 house above, the garage becomes inspiration for a new kind of living space.

3 Steel Houses: Barton Myers Associates by Barton Myers et. al., 2005, House Design, is dedicated to this house and two others. 



House in Fukaya, Japan, 2001

Waro Kishi, Architect

Located in a drab semi-urban setting, this courtyard house turns inward onto an ethereal alternate reality.  A double-height living area on one side faces sleeping quarters above a garage on the other, across the central court’s graceful composition of pool and open stair.   

This house is well documented in Modern Architect: Waro Kishi by Waro Kishi,2005, Archiworld.



Quik House, concept, 2001

Adam Kalkin, Architect

Adam Kalkin’s houses demonstrate how ingenious design can create quality from the humblest materials, making architecture out of shipping containers and temporary metal “Butler building” systems in projects like the Quik House, the Adriance House and the Kalkin House.  Mobile by design, ready-made and reusable, shipping containers belong equally to prefab architecture, found-object art, and sustainability.  Their abundant availability and cheapness in the West are byproducts of its trade deficit with the East.     

The Quik Build house and other container and Butler building houses are documented in Quik Build: Adam Kalkin’s ABC of Container Architecture by Gordon, Bergdoll, McLean & Kalkin, 2008, Bibliotheque McLean.  The Butler Variations by Adam Kalkin, 2001, Nice Nietsche Press, includes floor plans and section and elevation drawings for seven Butler building houses. 



Picture Window House, Shizuoka, Japan, 2002

Shigeru Ban, Architect

The great minimalist Shigeru Ban often names projects for their basic concept.  In the simplest of forms, Picture Window House manages to find a bridge-house icon, framed view, covered outdoor room, and serving of satori.

This house is well documented in Shigeru Ban by Matilda McQuaid, 2006, Phaidon.



4×4 House, Kobe City, Japan, 2001-03

Tadao Ando, Architect

A lookout tower of stacked rooms, this house’s top floor offset is at once a practical response to the final stair return and a source of animation and identity.  It’s snug space and vast views make vicarious ownership irresistible.

This house is included in Tadao Ando 1: Houses & Housing by Tadao Ando, 2007, TOTO.  Detail drawings of it are included in Tadao Ando – Details 3 by Yukio Futagawa, 2003, A.D.A. Edita.



Salt Point House, Salt Point, New York, USA, 2007

Thomas Phifer and Partners, Architects

A box that somehow breaks the box, full of flowing space and light, this modestly scaled house packs more than its share of sophistication and elegance.

Salt Point House is the cover feature of The Plan 024, 2008, Centauro.





One Response to “10 of the Best Houses from the Last 25 Years”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    A splendid although, not so diverse selection. Certainly Murcutt and Ando each offer deep and complex lists of successful house designs throughout their respective careers. In a similar vein as Murcutt, may I suggest you look at the work of Brian Mackay-Lions whose purity of form and material takes direction from an east coast vernacular with genuine sincerity.
    Regarding your taste for mass production or re-use/re-definition of ready made material, I feel your choices seem more focused on concept and method rather than the resulting Architectural quality. These efforts may best be described as clever.
    The F3 house to me appears to be the least worthy of any such 10 best list. It’s concept is simple to a fault and lacks any opportunity for the complexity and layering that actual habitation brings to a house. The Collins and Turner piece, although equally if not more simple, is much better executed.

Leave a Reply