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Cliff House, Khosla Associates, 2010. Kerala, India by Bharath Ramamrutham, Courtesy Khosla Associates

Beach House, Cibinel Architecture, 2016. Victoria Beach, Canada by Jerry Grajewski, Grajewski Fotograph Inc

Domus Aurea, Alberto Campo Baeza and GLR Arquitectos 2016, Monterrey, Mexico by Javier Callejas

Exbury Egg, PAD Studio, SPUD Group and Stephen Turner 2013, Beaulieu River, Hampshire, UK by Nigel Rigden

House in Brissago, Wespi de Meuron Romeo Architects, 2013, Brissago, Switzerland by Hannes Henz Architekturfotograf

Manshausen Island Resert, Stinessen Arkitektur 2015, Manshausen, Norway by Siggen Stinessen

Pole House, F2 Architecture 2017, Fairhaven, Australia by Tanja Milbourne

Tulia House, Alberto Morell 2015, Kilifi, Kenya by Javier Callejas

Tulia House, Alberto Morell 2015, Kilifi, Kenya by Javier Callejas

Watershed Lodge, Hughes Umbanhowar Architects (HUUM) 2013, Big Timber, MT, USA by Gibeon Photography

White Cave House, Takuro Yamamoto Architects 2013, Kanazawa, Japan by Ken’ichi Suzuki

Story: Living on Water showcases the finest examples of contemporary architecture featuring a special relationship with water. Whether cleverly working water into the structure or thoughtfully designed to frame the natural landscape, this beautiful compendium invites the reader to admire a selection of stunning buildings with a strong connection to lakes, oceans, ponds, streams, pools and rivers.

Water provides a sense of calm and serenity, and the houses featured in Living on Water have, in different ways, brilliantly established a strong relationship with this enchanting element, a spectacle that can be transparent or coloured, liquid or solid, smooth and yet rough at the same time.

Just as roads and streets define cities, water shapes our landscape. It descends from alpine terrain and transforms into meandering rivers, streams, and tributaries to become inland lakes, lochs, fjords, or seas, through deltas and marshlands toward the coast and, from there, into vast oceanic reserves. As water travels it moves at various speeds, adopts different characteristics, and forges a new relationship with each environment it becomes a part of. It comes as no surprise, then, that it is where water meets land – from archipelago islands to secluded beaches, riparian banks to craggy coastlines – that some of the most distinctive natural settings and contemporary residences can be found.

For a building to converse with its context, it must be capable of responding to the challenges posed by its particular environment. Water is an ever-changing visual canvas, absorbing and reflecting all shades of colour and able to transform from planar to sculptural in a moment. It is, in other words, mercurial; it can behave with sudden volatility as swiftly as it can become serene and still. Whereas quiet islands positioned deep within a forested archipelago might be suited to muted interventions, rugged windswept shorelines and their tempestuous atmospheric conditions might accommodate a more defiant design. These sorts of aesthetic and climatic considerations are crucial for those that sit in, on, or next to aqueous terrains.

The “golden troika” of water, landscape, and architecture can – when approached with conviction and a certain intelligence – lead to homes of elevated technical prowess and exceptional beauty, a formula that only a rarified few ultimately achieve. This book collates projects that accomplish just that. These are private residences that, through a variety of design concepts and techniques, and within radically different settings, consummately prove that water can become a building’s best friend after all.

Living on Water by Phaidon Editors, published by Phaidon is available to order here.

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