Best Friends Build Own Private Neighborhood to Be Together Forever

For many groups of faithful friends, adulthood means accepting that logistics are often the biggest obstacle to maintaining relationships. As hard as it is to get the gang together for dinner when everyone lives in the same city, it becomes a Herculean (or Sisyphean) task once the winds of change have scattered everyone to lands afar. Rather than succumb to the inevitable growing apart, four close-knit couples in Texas came up with a clever way to live together while maintaining their independence. They've built themselves four tiny houses all in a row, each within a stone’s throw of the next.

Because nothing says friends forever like signing a deed together, eight great pals living in the Austin area purchased ten acres of land outside the city limits, near the Llano River, for what they dubbed the “Llano Exit Strategy.” With a plot of earth to collectively call their own, the environmentally minded landowners enlisted the services of architect Matt Garcia to design four identical residential structures, one for each of the families. In keeping with the pragmatic minimalism of the “tiny house” movement, the homes comprise a mere 350 square feet apiece, with one bedroom, one bathroom, and one living room.

Where the friends’ extremely private community breaks from tiny house tradition is the existence of a fifth building: a big 1500-square-foot cabin with a full kitchen and additional social space for the neighbor-friends to come together as they please—think of it as a ground-level tree house, or a college residence hall lounge with nicer furniture. There are two dishwashers, presumably to avoid fighting over anyone leaving their silverware out too long, a porch, picnic tables, and even six bunk beds to accommodate lucky guests.

It’s not hard to see why the couples chose the Llano River as the site of their ideal idyll. They “had been hunting for a quiet escape from the ever-growing buzz of Austin, a place to ride their bikes, reconnect with nature and recharge,” and the riverfront location checks all those boxes. They’ve made sure to respect their natural surroundings by working with the arid local climate, rather than against it: the homes’ sloped butterfly-style roofs catch rainwater for reuse around the compound, while metal siding and good insulation both reduce heat from the glaring summer sun while preserving indoor warmth during cooler months.

The couples haven’t yet moved to their shared property full-time, escaping their busy city lives mostly on holidays and long weekends, but they do plan to retire there. What a way to grow old together.

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Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Silja Lena Løken / Statens vegvesen
Norway Opens Another Spectacular Roadside Bathroom
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Silja Lena Løken / Statens vegvesen
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Silja Lena Løken / Statens vegvesen

Norway’s National Tourist Routes will change how you think about rest stops. As part of a decades-long program, the Norwegian government has been hiring architects and designers to create beautiful roadside lookouts, bathrooms, and other amenities for travelers along 18 scenic highways throughout the country. One of the latest of the projects unveiled, spotted by Dezeen, is a glitzy restroom located on the Arctic island of Andøya in northern Norway.

The facility, designed by the Oslo-based Morfeus Arkitekter, is located near a rock formation called Bukkekjerka, once used as a sacrificial site by the indigenous Sami people. The angular concrete and steel structure is designed to fit in with the jagged mountains that surround it.

The mirrored exterior wall of the bathroom serves a dual purpose. On the one hand, it reflects the scenery around the building, helping it blend into the landscape. But it also has a hidden feature. It’s a one-way mirror, allowing those inside the restroom to have a private view out over the ocean or back into the mountains while they pee.

The newly landscaped rest area near the bathroom will serve as an event space in the future. The Bukkekjerka site is already home to an annual open-air church service, and with the new construction, the space will also be used for weddings and other events. Because this is the Arctic Circle, though, the restroom is only open in the late spring and summer, closing from October to May. Check it out in the photos below.

A bathroom nestled in a hilly landscape
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Hugo Fagermo / Statens vegvesen

The mirrored facade of a rest stop reflects concrete steps leading down a pathway.
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Hugo Fagermo / Statens vegvesen

A person stands outside the bathroom's reflective wall.
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Hugo Fagermo / Statens vegvesen

A wide view of a rest stop at the base of a coastal mountain
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Trine Kanter Zerwekh / Statens vegvesen

[h/t Dezeen]

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Snøhetta
Norway's New Hotel in the Arctic Circle Will Produce More Energy Than It Uses
Snøhetta
Snøhetta

A new hotel coming to Norway’s section of the Arctic Circle will be more than just a place to stay for a stunning fjord view. The Svart hotel, which is being billed as the world’s first "energy-positive" hotel, is designed to “set a new standard in sustainable travel,” according to Robb Report.

Built by a tourism company called Arctic Adventure Norway and designed by Snøhetta, an international architecture firm headquartered in Oslo, it’s one of the first buildings created according to the standards of Powerhouse, a coalition of firms (including Snøhetta) devoted to putting up buildings that will produce more power over the course of 60 years than they take to build, run, and eventually demolish. It will be located on a fjord at the base of Svartisen, one of the largest glaciers on Norway’s mainland and part of Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park.

A hotel stretches out above the water of a fjord.
Snøhetta

The design of the hotel is geared toward making the facility as energy-efficient as possible. The architects mapped how the Sun shines through the mountains throughout the year to come up with the circular structure. When the Sun is high in the winter, the terraces outside the rooms provide shadows that reduce the need for air conditioning, while the windows are angled to catch the low winter Sun, keeping the building warm during cold Arctic winters. In total, it is expected to use 85 percent less energy than a traditional hotel.

The sun reflects off the roof of a hotel at the base of a glacier on a sunny day.
Snøhetta

Svart will also produce its own energy through rooftop solar panels, though it won’t have excess energy on hand year-round. Since it’s located in the Arctic Circle, the hotel will have an abundance of sunlight during the summer, at which point it will sell its excess energy to the local electricity grid. In the winter, when it’s too dark for solar energy production, the hotel will buy energy back from the grid. Over the course of the year, it will still produce more energy than it uses, and over time, it will eventually produce enough excess energy to offset the energy that was used to build the structure (including the creation of the building materials).

“Building in such a precious environment comes with some clear obligations in terms of preserving the natural beauty and the fauna and flora of the site,” Snøhetta co-founder Kjetil Trædal Thorsen explains in the firm’s description of the design. “Building an energy-positive and low-impact hotel is an essential factor to create a sustainable tourist destination respecting the unique features” of the area.

Svart is set to open in 2021.

[h/t Robb Report]

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