In the world of architecture, few things remain constant. Established rules and conventions are broken and bent time and time again to create original structures that grab people’s attention and stand out. One set of rules that cannot be circumvented however, is physics – but there’s plenty that architects and designers can do to create the illusion of cheating Sir Isaac Newton’s laws. This blog highlights four jaw-dropping examples of buildings that either look totally impossible, or look as if they’re going to topple over at any moment.
If you’re afraid of heights, this most definitely is not the house for you. But if you can handle being perched on the side of a cliff, metres above the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean below, you’ll be treated to views like nowhere else.
Cliff House, Australia
Melbourne-based prefab home specialist Modscape created the modular Cliff House as a prototype, pinned to the side of a cliff face in a remote location in southwestern Australia. Residents enter on the uppermost floor, positioned level with the clifftop for ease of access, with living, sleeping and dining spaces of progressively smaller sizes found further down the wedge-shaped building. In order to make the most of the incredible views, the entire frontage is glass-walled, while the minimal furnishing removes distractions and puts all the attention on the stunning natural vista outside.
Built in 2010 next to a lake in rural Suffolk, the Balancing Barn is an eight-berth holiday home with a difference. It’s 30 metres long, but half of that hangs over a grassy drop with pretty much nothing but thin air underneath.
Balancing Barn, Suffolk
This feat of engineering is made possible through simple mathematics: the half that is firmly attached to the ground is made of much heavier materials than the half that is protruding into clear air. This, combined with a rigid concrete-based structure to add plenty of support, means that the cantilevered section can comfortably sit free of visible reinforcements. Designed by Dutch firm MVRDV, the team of architects behind it aimed to give visitors the chance to experience the natural world at both ground height and tree height without the need for a second storey.
Cube Houses, Rotterdam
Cubic Houses – Rotterdam, Netherlands
Designed to solve the problem of building houses on top of a pedestrian bridge, architect Piet Blom designed these cube houses. The cubes, which appear to defy gravity, sit tilted at a 45 degree angle on a hexagonal pole and provide high density housing with sufficient space on the ground level. The pole below some of the cubes allows for storage space as well as the staircase that leads to the entrance, while others have shops on the promenade level. With excellent views of the surrounding area, the houses capture the fashionable and metropolitan essence of Rotterdam.
Little Crooked House
Last week, we featured the curved sculptings and off-beat angles of the late Zaha Hadid, but the great British architect never went as far as to seemingly distort reality, like this incredible shop and office complex in the Polish city of Sopot.
Krzywy Domek, Sopot, Poland
Entitled Krzywy Domek, which translates into English as ‘little crooked house’, Polish architects Szotynscy & Zaleski unveiled their creation in 2004 with the hope of it being perceived as something out of a children’s book. Every single line of every glass frontage, door and wall has been distorted, to the point where the building looks completely different when observed from different vantage points. Now a major landmark in the area, it acts as a huge break from the norm in an otherwise traditional European urban centre.
Architecture is about challenging logic and advancing people’s thoughts of what is and isn’t possible in the world around us. And while the general principles of physics and gravity aren’t going to change any time soon, by altering the perceptions of the people beholding them, these buildings achieve the next best thing.