Where we call home shapes the way we live. These spaces vary widely, from the earliest caves to modern high-rises, and each reflects how we choose to dwell. Similar housing styles and patterns exist across the world, homes that inherently share formal or spatial characteristics. While they can be built with different materials in diverse contexts, they hold common ideas on landscape, structure and order. Tower houses are a powerful example of how homes can transcend locale. Though these dwellings are rare, they share similar approaches to view and hierarchy. They are projects that engender wonderfully unique living experiences.
As homes that rethink typical forms of dwelling, the following tower houses reveal novel approaches to vertical living around the world. From dense urban environments to rural, idyllic countrysides, the projects take advantage of height to frame expansive views. Built with structural systems that allow flexibility, each design has its own program and material expression. From decks and roof terraces to intricate staircases, the projects are made with thoughtful circulation and spatial sequences. Together, these designs break the mold to stand out and capture our imagination.
Marlon Blackwell’s Keenan TowerHouse was built as a structure that soars above the trees to offer expansive views across the horizon. Designed with stairs that rise through a 50-foot-high courtyard and an open-roof exterior room that frames the sky above, the project was oriented on the cardinal points to intensify the presence of celestial movements.
Sited behind Gimhaehyanggyo Confucian School, this tower house takes advantage of multiple views over the cityscape of Gimhae. To capture these views, a family room was created atop an observation tower, while a vertical gallery and foyer links and integrates all the rooms of the house together.
Christian Pottgiesser’s Maison L is located outside the Paris city center near the river Seine. Overlooking the Parisian outskirts, the tower minimizes construction on the grounds while forming a complex topography between the house and its landscape.
The Cien House was designed as a seven-story concrete tower that includes studio space. Rising from a partially submerged base, the structure was built with layered concrete and exposed aggregate to establish a monolithic profile.
Inspired by the trees that surround it, this vacation house features green enamel back-painted glass and a spacious living area on the top floor. Made with views to the Catskill mountains, the project includes glass-enclosed stairs that ascend to the treetops.
Created as a weekend desert residence, Four Eyes House was designed to intensify viewing and the experience of the surrounding site. Each “sleeping tower” was oriented to a different part of the landscape, from the morning sunrise and southern mountain range to evening city lights and the nighttime stars overhead.
Maiden Tower in Austria was created as a vertical steel and concrete monolith rising above the land. Connected to an in-ground pool and the nearby forest, the project includes living quarters, a library and carefully crafted outdoor space.
Building upon Lake Travis’s vernacular limestone cabin designs from 1930, Andersson-Wise’s house introduced additional living quarters through a vertical wood tower. The project was made with a terrace that opens up to a panorama of the lake and surrounding landscape.
Tadao Ando’s 4x4 House is connected by a stairway that leads up to a glass cube atop the concrete house. Oriented to the Seto Sea and Awaji island, the design serves as a lighthouse with views towards the famous Akashi bridge.
This tower house design is situated atop steep topography and is accessed by a steel pedestrian bridge. Built with one main room per floor, the house has three primary spaces that float within the tubular building skin. The tall spaces are connected to the sleeve through closets, bathrooms and stairs.
The Glen Lake Tower House was designed as a three-story plywood form bounded and supported by two metal-clad walls. Overlooking views to the landscape and Glen Lake, the project features expansive cantilevered decks and a dramatic glass-wrapped living space.
Rabbit Snare Gorge was designed around the remoteness of Cape Breton in the Northeastern seaboard. The house places the environment on display to encourage exploration in the surrounding landscape. The gabled tower opens up towards views of the Acadian forest and the Northumberland Strait.