Hidden in Plain Sight: 7 Clever Ways to Blend Building and Site

These projects fit into a smaller category of architecture that embraces the nature of its setting and seamlessly blends with the landscape.

Nidhi Upadhyaya Nidhi Upadhyaya

The latest edition of “Architizer: The World’s Best Architecture” — a stunning, hardbound book celebrating the most inspiring contemporary architecture from around the globe — is now available. Order your copy today.  

Every site has a unique topography and character. Generally, built structures either respond to the geography of their site, or they take on a distinct identity from the surrounding neighborhood. However, there is also a smaller category of architecture that is seamlessly incorporated into the landscape rather than being constructed on top of it.

Such structures often mimic the natural tone of their surroundings, or the geography’s texture. Some even take on fluid forms to follow along the topographic contours, sinking and emerging in ways that trick the eye. Their interior spaces evoke a sense of intimacy and awaken an urge to explore their hidden depths. The following collection of built and unbuilt designs stand out precisely because they blend in to their surroundings.

buildings that blend into the landscape

Images by Yiorgos Kordakis

Xerolithi by Sinas Architects, Milos, Greece
Jury Winner, 2021 A+Awards, Details – Architecture +Stone

Featuring wood, bamboo and stone on its façades and roofs, this summer house was designed to challenge the commonplace assumption that Greek island architecture is comprised solely of stacked white boxes. The design uses long and narrow curved spaces to imitate naturally occurring xenoliths (fragments of stones trapped inside or enveloped by larger rocks during their formation). Its roof is covered with dirt and natural vegetation, rendering it nearly invisible to the naked eye when viewed from afar.

buildings that blend into the landscapeYabuli Entrepreneurs’ Congress Center by MAD Architects, Shangzhi, Harbin, China
Jury Winner, 2021 A+Awards, Cultural – Hall / Theatre

This design uses gently sloped forms to mimic a snowcapped peak, something the region of Yabuli is famous for. It has a relatively low height of about 78 feet (24 meters) and its roof gradually decreases in height and cantilevers over its external walls, making it appear as if it is floating from the snowy ground.

Sheltered Villas by A&M Architects, Karpathos, Greece

This structure is built partially underground on a sloped site that spans about 130,000 square feet. Its clean, linear geometry is composed using stark white walls and minimal black accents that contrast with the natural texture of the terrain. The home’s large fenestrations facilitate an unobstructed view of the sea, allowing the user to feel one with nature.

buildings that blend into the landscapeWaterfall Temple by ANTIREALITY

This conceptual project creates a tranquil sanctuary nestled within a roaring waterfall. The narrow entrance resembles a curtain that cuts through the water and invites visitors to explore the space within. Its interior spaces, encrusted with a shiny mosaic pattern, are made up of curved lines that embody the fluidity of water.

buildings that blend into the landscapeUman Lodge by Forcinito Arquitectos, Futaleufú, Chile

Blocky lodges that house different functions are woven in and out of these Chilean cliffs, almost appearing like rocks protruding from the landmass. The lodge is perched at the edge of the cliff in a fan-like shape, facilitating expansive views of the rivers beyond. The staggering of blocks has the added benefit of allowing the vegetation around to blend, becoming a part of the structures.

buildings that blend into the landscapeQuzhou Sports Campus by MAD Architects, Quzhou, China
Jury Winner, 2020 A+Awards, Sport & Recreation – Unbuilt Sports & Recreation

This project takes inspiration from the site’s natural contours and lush foliage. Most of the functions of the complex are enclosed within mounds that blend with the surrounding park. In addition to the the recreational spaces inside, visitors will also be able to climb on the exterior surfaces, to walk along the pedestrian pathways that run over them and to lounge on the lawns for relaxation.

buildings that blend into the landscapeLafarge Holcim Competition by ARSA architects, Novi Pazar, Serbia

This competition entry proposes an energy-efficient structure close to the city center to make it available to more students and people with additional needs in the community. The looped form encourages better wind circulation, and its roof comprises water collection tanks and photovoltaic cells to make it more sustainable, and vegetation to help it to blend, becoming one with the land around.

The latest edition of “Architizer: The World’s Best Architecture” — a stunning, hardbound book celebrating the most inspiring contemporary architecture from around the globe — is now available. Order your copy today.  

Nidhi Upadhyaya Author: Nidhi Upadhyaya
Nidhi Upadhyaya is an architect and journalist from Mumbai, India. When not working, she can be found binging on DIY videos, experimenting with art mediums or making a dent in her large to-read list. She has previously worked as Features Writer for Elle Decor India, Assistant Editor for India Inc, Art Director for the print edition of Bombay Binge and is currently the Editorial Assistant at TED-Ed in New York.
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