This tiny living home made from wheatgrass, jute, and felt brings nature into our brutal cityscape

Getting close to nature through architecture comes in many forms. Some homes take to glass facades, dissolving the barrier between the outdoors and inside, then some homes feature blueprints that wrap around trees, incorporating their canopies and trunks into the lay of the house. Omri Cohen, a student designer at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, has a different idea. Cohen developed the Living Shell, an architectural shell built by growing jute, felt, and wheatgrass into a form of a textile that’s laid over a bamboo frame.

Turning to textile technology, Living Shell was born from Cohen’s quest to evolve layers of wheatgrass root systems into elastic, textile materials. Settling on the shell’s curvilinear structural shape, the wheatgrass textile wraps over its bamboo frame, forming layers of insulation and shade while it continues to grow. Cohen found durability in the inexpensive building material he developed from jute, felt, and wheatgrass. Layering the different roots together in a pattern that allows room for sustained growth periods, the textile’s thickness and durability increase over time as the roots continue to interlace and grow. While he has yet to build a life-size Living Shell, Cohen crafted 1:10 models to demonstrate the feasibility of introducing the Living Shell into rural and urban environments alike. Connecting the structure to an irrigation system, the textile overwrap would most likely receive nourishment from a programmed watering method.

While Living Shell functions like a house, it would more likely offer natural refuge hubs for small animals to gather nesting materials from and inhabit. Additionally, Cohen developed Living Shell so that urban dwellers and rural farmers have the opportunity to watch nature in action, for all of its natural growth, regenerative, and decay processes.

Designer: Omri Cohen

Layered around a bamboo frame, Cohen’s Living Shell is made from a textile developed from jute, felt, and wheatgrass.

Before building its life-size debut, Cohen created tiny 1:10 models of Living Shell.

Following tests to show how wheatgrass root systems grew through textile sheets, Cohen settled on some that could be woven together into a single textile sheet.

Cohen found a textile sheet that he could sew together and integrate the seeds of jute, felt, and wheatgrass.

Wheatgrass growing through the textile sheets.

The growth process of wheatgrass shows that the textile’s thickness would increase with continued irrigation.

The green roof of this holiday home was designed to blend in seamlessly with its surrounding landscape!

Passing by those homes that are sculpted into natural mountainsides, I can’t help but imagine what it must feel like waking up there, with miles of views and endless sky. Mountain homes really are marvels to look at and inside, they’re as cozy as it gets– the ideal holiday home. KRADS, an architectural studio based in Denmark and Iceland recently finished work on a client’s very own holiday home nestled away somewhere in the mountains of southwestern Iceland, perched above Lake Þingvallavatn.

Being the second-largest natural lake in Iceland, the views overlooking Lake Þingvallavatn are sweeping, especially from the vantage point of Tina Dickow’s and Helgi Jónsson’s holiday home. The pair of performing artists worked with KRADS to creatively integrate their holiday home into the lake’s surrounding mountainous terrain, forming intentional views of the natural, dense landscape and nearby Lake Þingvallavatn. To integrate the holiday home into this part of southwestern Iceland’s mountainous region, KRADS built concrete foundations in three staggered planes that follow the topography of the hilly landscape, building on the rest of the home’s frame from there.

Following the movement of the natural landform, KRADS planned the holiday home’s location and structure according to the changing slopes and leafy wooded area that surrounds it. By adapting to the natural landform, the holiday home’s views are endless when taken in from the accessible rooftop. Further embedding the holiday home into its encompassing woodland, the rooftops of each staggered plane are overgrown with moss, shrubbery, and local grasses, sloping partly towards and partly with the bordering hillside. Preserving the natural landscape was a top priority for KRADS and the home’s residents, exhibited through the home’s boundless green rooftop and KRADS’s seamless staggered approach to the home’s construction.

Designer: KRADS

From all sides, this holiday home is harmonious with the surrounding landscape.

Natural wood accents subdue and warm-up the brightness of the home’s optic white interior.

Throughout the home, separate rooms are delineated through the integration of furniture and natural sunlight.

“Towards North, the house rises above the low scrub to give an unobstructed view over Þingvallavatn and the mountain Skjaldbreið from the main room of the house.”

Expansive windows punctuate most corners of the holiday home to offer unobstructed views of Iceland’s second-largest natural lake.

A sunken living area enhances the holiday home’s coziness and brings the view of nearby Þingvallavatn feel even closer.

Outside, the holiday home is coated with a stealthy black exterior that fully dissolves into the mountainside come dark.

The holiday home was built on three staggered concrete planes.

“In the opposite direction [of the lake], the main room opens onto a south-west-facing terrace that is closely surrounded by trees.”

From an aerial viewpoint, the holiday home melds with the forest that surrounds it.

“Apart from the terrace, the immediate surroundings of the building are so densely vegetated that they are close to impenetrable.”

Modular architectural design that brings a healthy mix of Scandinavian design and sustainability to your home!

Plant Prefab, a California-based architecture firm that prefabricates sustainable homes, recently collaborated with Koto, a UK-based studio that designs modular homes, to build two residences called LivingHomes. Devised to meet both LEED Platinum and net-zero standards, the homes were also designed and built on some Scandinavian design principles: minimalism and biophilia. Biophilia is the hypothetical human tendency to interact with nature. Biophilic design, which could be inherently minimalist, interprets that human tendency for both interior and exterior spaces, producing a design concept used to increase the connectivity between a building’s residents and the natural world. In order to meet sustainability standards that match Plant Prefab’s mission statement, Koto looked toward Scandinavian design standards. Together they created two LivingHomes, constructed with recycled building materials with respect to the natural world, equipped with ultra-efficient heating and cooling systems, smart energy monitoring, LED lighting, recycled insulation and drywall, and low-flow water fixtures.

The first home, Yksi, is a cantilevered, two-bedroom residence that employs biophilic design principles through ample deck space and large windows with unobstructed views of natural surroundings. On the first floor of Yksi, which means ‘first’ in Finnish, there are two bedrooms, a bathroom, an office space, and a utility closet. The bedrooms are located on opposite ends of Yksi’s first floor, giving the feel of separate wings for the home’s residents, which enhances the design team’s devotion to Scandinavian design, conveying a sense of quiet luxury. Each bedroom comes with windows that practically take up an entire facade of the two-floor structure. Moving up to the second floor, Yksi is equipped with an open-plan kitchen for excellent cross-ventilation, a dining area, and two separate, outdoor deck areas for easy access to the open air.

The second home, which is named after the Finnish word for ‘courtyard,’ Piha offers four bedrooms and three bedrooms, two courtyards and a deck, and a vast open living space that forms the heart of the home. On the first floor, the open living space incorporates clever use of walls to delineate distinct rooms such as the kitchen and snug, a hideaway just off the main living area. Punctuating the open living area are two courtyards that offer sweeping views of nature and a deck that can be accessed through double-glass sliding doors. Residents can also find two of the four bedrooms on the first floor, once again on opposite ends for prime privacy and quiet, that are separated by a staircase. Following the staircase up to the second floor, residents will find two more bedrooms, one being the master bedroom, complete with an en-suite bath, marked with massive windows for endless views.

Designers: Plant Prefab x Koto