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As aesthetically surprising as stumbling upon an amorphous structure in the middle of an incongruous landscape can be, nothing beats a home perfectly – and sustainably – suited to its site. In his new book of dream getaways, author Ron Broadhurst compiles contemporary homes from the San Juan Islands to Santa Barbara, Calif., and Norra Lagno, Sweden to Water Mill, N.Y., which are equally architecturally adventurous and environmentally sensitive. As the author – and the excerpt of spaces on this spread – suggests, what makes a truly inspiring retreat is “the poise a house displays in the company of nature”

Under Pohutukawa

HERBST ARCHITECTS

Piha, New Zealand

A forest of sinuous pohutukawa trees screens the view of this beachfront house on New Zealand’s west coast. (Photography by Patrick Reynolds)

When architects Lance and Nicola Herbst moved to New Zealand from South Africa, they were immediately fascinated by the local building type known as a bach – a modest beach cottage constructed from timber and corrugated iron. This fascination led them to engage in a number of projects that referred back to the classic bach. The latest of these, called Under Pohutukawa, in Piha, New Zealand, a small coastal municipality, takes its name from another New Zealand fixture, the pohutukawa, a tree of great symbolic significance to the Maori and of great pride to New Zealanders in general. Protected by many local authorities, including Piha, the tree created a singular challenge for the architects, who had to build on a site that was part of a beachfront forest of pohutukawa.

Edgeland House

BERCY CHEN STUDIO

Austin, Texas

A sliver of space between a pair of angular pavilions divides the Edgeland House’s public and private areas. (Photography by Paul Bardagjy)

Austin-based firm Bercy Chen Studio, led by Belgian Thomas Bercy and Taiwanese-Australian Calvin Chen, has demonstrated a commitment to environmentally sustainable design since its founding in 2001. In addition to issues of sustainability, the firm’s work is informed by vernacular precedents from various cultures, whether Islamic, Indian, African, or pre-Columbian, while maintaining respect for their projects’ environmental context, whether urban or rural. For the Edgeland House, the architects took as their point of inspiration the Native American pit house, a structure that was partially dug into the ground. The house is visible only as a narrow slice through a hillside, with its seven-foot-deep excavation and dense green roof sheltering two separate pavilions, with an outdoor corridor in between.

Fall House

FOUGERON ARCHITECTURE

Big Sur, California

Excerpt from Retreat: The Modern House in Nature by Ron Broadhurst (Rizzoli, 2015). (Photography by Joe Fletcher Photography)

As Anne Fougeron has written, “placing form on wilderness is a radical act,” an attitude that appealed to the clients of this three-bedroom vacation house on a breathtaking bluff along the Pacific Coast. Fougeron found the most challenging aspect of the project was to maintain a balance between the inevitable transformation of the landscape to accommodate the house while still respecting, if not quite deferring to, the site. In order to achieve this, Fougeron made the house cling to the hill in a linear structure that conformed to the bluff’s crags and contours, creating a form that zigzags down to end at a master bedroom suite cantilevered over the ocean.

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