Category Archives: European modern house plans

The Flexible Home: Airstream Trailer to Rotating Villa

Wheels-Within-Wheels

What is flexibility in home design? Partly it’s about efficiency, as in the Airstream Sterling Concept Trailer designed by architect Christopher Deam (released late last year by the Airstream company), where multiple functions

are packed into every surface of the small interior. The cabinetry recalls the compact, every-inch-counts-ingenuity of yacht and jet plane interiors, as well as Fuller’s Dymaxion house (photo by Drew Kelly, courtesy The New York Times).

The walls become both moving partitions and storage containers, while the streamlined metal surfaces and overlapping spaces bring the Airstream’s classic, sleek, retro-mod exterior inside to accentuate the feeling of spaciousness (photo courtesy DesignMilk).

A more extreme example of flexibility might be the famous modern Italian villa

known as il Girasole (the Sunflower) near Verona, built in 1935 by civil and nautical engineer Angelo Invernizzi with architect Ettore Fagiuoli. It rotates to follow the sun (like a sunflower) and take in a 360-degree view  — a precursor to all those rotating cocktail lounges from the 1960s and 70s, only here the whole house turns, not just the top floor. It’s built on a massive three-story

stationary concrete drum that’s dug into a hill. Here you see the two story

L-shaped house on top of the drum after it has made a compete revolution: now the L faces the viewer, now it faces away. The house itself is supported on a chassis that runs on three circular rails, as  shown here in an aerial view.

According to architectural historian Colin Davies in his book Key Houses of the 20th Century: “Villa Girasole is more like a traveling crane or swing bridge than

a sunflower.” The great wheels are remarkable objects in themselves — like monumental kinetic sculpture. Electric motors can push the house through a complete rotation in about 9 hours. (OK — it’s 6 pm: that must be the vineyard! Time for another glass of grappa! Or is that the grappa and it’s time for another vineyard…) The house pivots around an axle connected to a large bearing at the

base of the drum through a tall cylinder containing a circular stairway wrapping

an elevator. It’s a surpassingly clever design and you can view a fascinating short film about it narrated by the engineer’s daughter at Flixxy, where she recalls: “Each time I lifted my eyes from the book I was reading I would see a different vista.” So —  il Girasole is quite literally flexible in the sense that it moves, but it takes a lot of effort to make that possible (images courtesy Loftenberg.com).

Flexibility can also refer to how a design, or elements of a design, accommodate different circumstances, which was the reasoning behind the development of our Flexahouse, by architect Nick Noyes. It combines the same great room, storage wall, entry, bedrooms, master suite, and garage in three different ways, from I-shape Plan 445-1

to L-shape Plan 445-3 – this one doesn’t move!)

to  T-shape Plan 445-5

– to suit different lot sizes, from narrow to wide. In short, there are many ways to achieve flexibility. The trick is simply to plan for it!

 

Contemporary European House Plans

The World At Home

Our collection of plans by invited designers from around the globe is growing. The latest international members include Italian architect Lucia Strona and Lithuanian architect Skirmantas Slamas. Lucia’s small modern 1,636 sq. ft.,

house, Plan 542-2,  above, emphasizes outdoor connections. At the center of the 2 bedroom 2 bath home is the living-dining area, adjacent to the

generous sheltered patio, which functions as an entertaining space. In Plan 542-3, below —  with 3 bedrooms 3.5 baths in  1,989 sq. ft. — she uses

geometry to break up the box: the living room and bedrooms occupy a

long rectangle that intersects with a square containing the kitchen-dining area. Each geometric unit distorts and expands the other, which produces distinctive overlapping spaces such as the cozy corner sitting area in the living room

and the trapezoidal bathroom on the second floor. Lucia specializes in green design, paying particular attention to a house’s orientation on the site and the use of eco-friendly materials. She’s also an expert in historic preservation and

recently completed the restoration of this 16th century stone castle (now that ‘s a hefty barrel vault!).

Skirmantas Slamas has focused on urban design, as with this compact row

house complex Plan 538-1, below (each unit is 1,000 sq. ft.). The living-dining

area opens to a rear terrace, allowing the house to expand in good weather. If the garage is not needed it’s possible to combine it with the living area.

Skirmantas has also worked outside the box, with distinctive vacation houses

inspired by nautical design. Benvenuti Lucia; and Pasveikinti Skirmantas! To keep “traveling” and see plans from Australia, Brazil, Estonia, India, and Ireland as well as Italy and Lithuania, browse our entire Signature Studio.