There’s an air. The notion of living beneath the ground may be a fun idea for a few but a nightmare for many others.
Many who choose to build in the ground now do this for ecological purposes, however the explanations for building entirely or partially belowground can fluctuate, including the necessity to decrease the building’s effect on neighbours, building down where distance is tight to extend or building upward, with the ground for its heating and cooling properties. Or some may build into the ground just to be concealed from view.
Designing and building a home in the ground bring several challenges, including the cost of excavating, keeping water out, dealing with drainage and services, solving issues around designing and accessibility for adequate natural light and ventilation. More frequently than not, new “underground” homes are partially dug into the earth or embedded into a hillside, leaving some areas open to the air, sun and views.
Have a look at those seven homes partially submerged in the ground and see what you believe.
1. Malator, by Future Systems, Wales (1998)
Located radically on a clifftop in Wales, this one-room home is just barely under ground. With no backyard, driveway or ancillary external spaces, it melts into the landscape. On the ground side, a tiny glazed doorway in a dip opens to the view. Openings that are Porthole possess a feel.
Internal functional regions are comprised within colorful pods. A large, curved sofa looks out over the dizzying expansive views of St. Brides Bay, together with seagulls wheeling up from the shore below on hot air currents.
2. The Hobbit House, by Simon and Jasmine Dale, Wales (2005)
Builder Simon Dale assembled this low-impact, cheap house for his family using very basic resources and local organic substances, all dug from the ground or harvested from the surrounding fields. Compost toilets, solar panels, gravity-fed spring water and a wood burner create this home sustainable.
The home is partially dug into the hill to minimize its visual effects. About 30 cut trees that are roughly form the roof. The walls are a mix of lime-plastered dry rock and straw bales, and the roof is insulated with straw bales, topped with ground and sown with wild grasses.
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3. Dutch Mountain, by Denieuwegeneratie (New Generation), the Netherlands (2011)
This sustainable home is embedded into a wooded Dutch moor where the ground rises up like a little mountain, occupying the home back into itself.
According to the architects, embedding the home in the hill insulated the house but also hid it. The homeowners enter through a cutout part in the mountain.
Aboveground a timber cantilevered roof emerges, with its glazed openings oriented to maximize the sunlight’s energy and light up the interior. The house’s thermal mass retains heat when needed, and the earth’s natural properties cool the home in the summer.
The home is surprisingly bright and welcoming inside, completed with a mix of exposed concrete and simple painted finishes. The rooms have either a cave-like atmosphere with daylight taken down through heavy cuts in the hill, or big, spacious, southern-lit spaces in the front with views toward the surrounding woods.
4. House by César Manrique, Lanzarote Island, Spain (1966)
This famous house was constructed on the Website of an 18th-century volcanic eruption in Lanzarote, Spain. Aboveground a low, sleek, whitewashed building surrounded by cacti and vibrant steel sculptures emerges from an amazing black volcanic landscape.
The rooms around the entrance level include artists’ studios with big picture windows opening onto the basalt landscape. In 1 area the lava seems to have flowed inside.
Large holes cut into the floor open into the lower story, where five areas are drilled to the volcanic basalt. Stone steps lead down through the rock to the floor, and narrow passageways with white painted floors direct from cave to cave. In 1 cave that a semicircular white sofa surrounds a lone palm tree reaching up through a hole in the cave ceiling.
5. Dani Ridge House, by Carver and Schicketanz, Big Sur, California
This home was designed to evaporate and assembled together with sustainability in mind. To preserve the surrounding landscape and conceal the house from uphill neighbors, then the architects cut a wedge into the hillside and secured the house into it. This allowed the land to rise over a softly curved roof, planted with native grasses. All the utilities are hidden belowground.
Glazed walls open up the views to the Pacific Ocean and collect solar energy, which is saved in the limestone flooring’ thermal mass. The retaining walls and earthen roof decrease heat loss. Positioning the chimney from east to west supported airflow for cooling in the warmer months.
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SeARCH Architecture and Urban Planning
6. Villa Vals, by Christian Muller Architects and SeArch, Switzerland (2008)
Villa Vals is a modern take on the underground dwellings of old. As a result of specific sensitivity of the website, the architects buried the home deep into a steep hillside, leaving the surrounding nature undisturbed. Its expression is that of a void in the hill as opposed to an object sitting on the hill.
More: What’s Next for Our Homes’ Exterior Design?