How Modern Architecture Can Connect Us to Nature

The longer COVID-19 rages on and we spend more time at home, the more likely we are to wonder how residential architecture could change in the future. As a part of San Francisco Design Week in June, architect Leo Marmol, managing partner at Marmol Radziner, discussed how indoor-outdoor living strategies employed by early modernist architects feel especially beneficial and relevant today in promoting health and well-being at home.

“Modernism is about this notion of connection. I feel it’s too easy to consider modernism as a method and really oversimplify it into flat roofs and sterility. It’s not that. It’s a few relationships. It’s about connection. Connection to ourselves and our families within the way an idea flows and communicates internally, a few connections to the rhythms of the environment outside our buildings,” Marmol said.

Expansive windows and Doors Welcome Views, Natural Light and Ventilation

Elements like sliding glass doors, big pivot doors, and oversize windows open up a home and connect it to the environment in a natural way. “In some ways, simply opening up the doors and windows will invite and permit away a more healthful interior environment,” Marmol said. “I think anything that permits us to ascertain and physically leave our buildings and be within the landscape is positive.”

The Los Angeles home seen here, designed and built by Marmol Radziner, takes full advantage of its tree-filled location between a hillside and a canyon road within the Santa Monica Mountains. the house was designed to celebrate the natural environment and foster a robust indoor-outdoor connection. Much of the house exposes to the landscape within the sort of sliding glass doors and walls.

In this photo, we will see how the house also connects to the landscape through views. The dark interior allows the grasses and sycamore trees outside to enter the inside living spaces, creating an almost painting-like effect. Deep roof overhangs pull within the landscape even more, and alongside the building’s orientation protects the house from solar gain.

In Australia, another place that permits indoor-outdoor living nearly year-round, this home’s dining and living areas open up completely to the landscape, with sliding walls creating a wide-open connection between spaces. Additionally, wood flooring inside the house and exterior wood decking help to meld the 2 living spaces together.

In this Los Angeles. home designed by the architects at Walker Workshop, a hallway resulting in the home’s bedrooms has glass walls on one side that hospitable a sunken courtyard. When the glass is slid open, because it is here, the hallway and courtyard hook up with becoming an indoor-outdoor living space

Indoor-outdoor living seems natural in places with mild climates, like California and therefore the Mediterranean, but what about regions that have more extreme weather or have tons of bugs? within the Baltimore-area home seen here, a wall of windows provides the year-round connection to the outside, with views of the encompassing woodland changing throughout the year.

Place architecture: design added a screened porch off the home’s front room, further bridging the divide between interior and exterior spaces. An expansive three-panel bi-fold door separates the two spaces and may be left open on a pleasant day to welcome in fresh air while keeping bugs out. 

Natural Materials Warm-Up an area and Connect It to the outside

Though the lines and details of recent homes could also be clean and simplified, that doesn’t mean the homes got to be cold and sterile. For Marmol, the perfect modern interior is warm and cozy. “For us, it’s about natural materials. It’s about texture,” he said. “We often use the outside materials that literally slide indoors. Those materials tend to be natural materials, organic materials that add a component of texture and connection to the world .”

The entrance seen here, to a home for a multigenerational family on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, features a country flagstone wall and cedar boardwalk. Native Pacific Northwest landscaping envelops the fashionable farmhouse complex, built by Dovetail General Contractors.

The same cedar decking from the boardwalk flows inside the house, creating a simple transition between the inside and exterior spaces. It also brings the sensation of being outside into the house, enhanced by the dappled shade from surrounding trees that dances on the walls and floors.

The walls are clad in stained alder board, and clear cedar planks line the ceiling. This marriage of various wood types adds texture, warmth, and interest without overwhelming or cluttering the space.

In the Santa Barbara , California, landscape seen here, designed by RMLA - Rob Maday architecture , warm-tone flagstone pavers create garden paths, surround the pool and spa, and form the ground of a petite guesthouse. Stone covers the inside walls also , creating the sensation of an intimate garden courtyard inside.

This new range in the Hamptons, New York, by Bates Masi + Architects features a robust connection to the landscape and honors the midcentury modern dwelling destroyed by Hurricane Sandy that wont to occupy the property.

One way the architects achieved the connection to the landscape and nodded to the midcentury history of the property is thru the materials they used. They opted for easy , natural materials indoors and out that add a sense of heat to the clean, modernist space. Exposed cross-laminated timber panels span the ceiling, continuing outside to make large roof overhangs that shade the house . Large-format flagstone pavers cover the floors inside and out, blurring the lines between house and garden.

An Intimate Scale Can Increase Efficiency and Human Comfort

“Modernism is about efficiency. It’s not only inefficient to create [homes at large] scales, [but] it’s inefficient to take care of those scales. It’s nonsustainable,” Marmol said. “We always want to create the littlest house that works for the program, that works for our clients, and thus allows the foremost garden possible. we might encourage the littlest home that also works for the client.”

In Massachusetts, this new prefab home from Acorn Deck House sits lightly on the land. Its understated exterior and 1,247 square feet of space recede into the background, leaving more room for outdoor living and for the landscape to command attention.

Inside, the house features two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a two-car detached garage and a central great room. Though the space is open and airy — with floor-to-ceiling glass walls and clerestory windows above welcoming views of nature — it feels intimate and cozy for a family.

“I think so often with large homes, they lose their intimacy because the size becomes unidentifiable to our notions of the house . they begin to trigger more emotions of economic environments,” Marmol said. “Most of our lives, most of your time , is about our reference to our families. We’re trying to support that connection as best we will . That’s about scale and proportion.”

Windows, Balconies and Terraces Can Open Up to the Sky and Views in Multiunit Buildings

For those living in apartments or other high-rise dwellings, it’s still possible to attach to the world and nature around you. “Other things open up for us up within the air. The sense of view — you're connected during a much broader way — and if we will open up and see the town , we will feel more a neighborhood of it. Outdoor living spaces are still possible with balconies and terraces,” Marmol said.

The ny City bedroom seen here, by Stephen Moser Architect, is flooded with natural light from the floor-to-ceiling steel-framed glass doors. When opened, the doors draw you bent a balcony garden high above the bottom .

The intimate garden, planted with grasses and climbing ivy, offers a taste of nature many stories above the bottom . The view of the blue and therefore the surrounding Manhattan skyline connects this home to the planet around it.