When you think of subterranean housing, the first dwellings that spring to mind are stark, concrete fallout shelters and the lairs of evil movie scientists. But in reality, underground housing is far from dark or depressing.
The best and most innovative architects and designers integrate their building into the land. Why go through the trouble of building a steppe when one is already there? Imagine a staircase that leads to a ground-level balcony. Or a glass ceiling that allows that allows the morning sun to fire into a bedroom or allows a living room to be lit by moonlight.
Perhaps the above-ground mode of living has become a cliché. Without barriers and boundaries maybe we’ve failed to appreciate the natural world. The limitless landscape has made us lazy, causing us to take advantage of space rather than utilize it.
Rocks, grass and dirt have shown themselves to be more than a little resilient, so why shouldn’t they be used as part of the building process rather than removed to make it “easier?”
The architects who design and then build underground aren’t doing so simply for environmental or stylistic purposes, although these are undoubtedly major factors. There are financial benefits to the home owners.
Yes, on the front end, the building costs are more than the traditional home, but over the life of the house, the heating and cooling costs are dramatically lower, since the earth’s natural rhythms are called into action.
If modern or even post-modernism and underground living does not seem like a good fit, then consider the 4,500 square foot, Sagaponac House on Long Island, New York (pictured above). The marriage of style and soil has rarely been so dynamic. The house has trademark Cubism structure with an outdoor, below-ground pool.
If Sagaponac House is a bit much for your tastes, then maybe the underground house in Vals, Switzerland (pictured top, above and below) is more to your liking.
Built into the side of mountain, the home is an understated tour de force, if such a thing is possible.
The earth tones complement the hillside surroundings perfectly and only enhance the home’s apparent functionality.
Perhaps you’d prefer the Sedum House (above), created by Tom and Anna Ground in the sand dunes of the Norfolk coast in England. Bedrooms are burrowed deep inside the earth, and the living room looks over over the surrounding countryside.
The Malator House (above and below) is another excellent example. Located in Pembrokeshire, also in England, it’s been compared to the home of the Teletubbies, and fair enough.
It’s carved out of a hillside and shaped like a tunnel, but its glass-fronted design allows it to be bathed in masses of light.
Then there’s the radical zero-carbon eco-house Make Architects have designed for British footballer Gary Neville (below), to be built near Bolton. It was inspired, say the architects, by the Skara Brae underground settlement in Orkney.
It certainly beats the house below…