I n certain circles, innovative architecture is a boundary-pushing test of one-upmanship, with architects juxtaposing and exaggerating existing styles and silhouettes while playfully embracing the element of surprise. But to be successful, design has to do more than be wildly creative: it has to be functional. Dan Brunn, an LA-based architect whose projects have featured zigzagging balconies and pivoting walls, believes that it is the architect’s job to create designs that enhance the lives of the homeowners. Harmoniously uniting shapes, capturing volume and light, framing views, and orchestrating floor plans so that “form comes alive” are the attributes of great architecture, Brunn says.
Such structures are common in big cities, but they can also be found in areas like Scottsdale, Arizona, where some luxury homebuyers are deviating from traditional Tuscan- and Southwest-style homes, opting instead for contemporary statement properties. According to Deems Dickinson, president and designated broker of Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty in Scottsdale, these new homes’ striking lines “contrast with our Sonoran Desert, yet balance with their natural setting in terms of aesthetics.” A custom home located on the 17th fairway of the prestigious Mirabel Golf Club community, for instance, is a noteworthy example of innovative contemporary architecture and stands out in its desert surroundings. While remarkably creative, its design is also extremely functional: its indoor atrium with bamboo garden serves as a restorative patch of controlled nature amid the desert wilderness; its floating staircase heightens its spaciousness; and the floor-to-ceiling windows and full-length skylights flood the home with light and warmth.
Certainly, architecture that challenges the norm has the power to turn heads, but innovative design fuelled by functionality transforms lives.
New York-based writer Iyna Bort Caruso has contributed to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsday and others.
Click the slideshow to view five innovative homes.