Top 10 Modern Buildings That Make You A Good Neighbor

Architects have a penchant for breaking with tradition, and little can be done to help the matter. Still, not all architects are the overzealous megalomaniacs that Howard Roark or Zaha Hadid make them out to be. A good architect knows that every context possesses its own charms that can and should be used in the making of something new. They’ll work to call out features and rhythms—but not necessarily forms and ornament—unique to the place and incorporate them into their work.

You might call them good neighbors, and before that State Farm jingle gets irretrievably lodged in your head—where it will play over and over and over—we thought we’d show you 10 buildings that give a better idea of what we’re talking about. All of the projects show a keen eye for detail, an impeccable sense of scale, and, most importantly, dutiful restraint, while maintaining their own sense of flair. They’re just short of ringing at your door with a plate of freshly baked cookies.


Malopolska Garden of Arts
Krakov, Poland
Designed by Ingarden & Ewy Architekci
Why it’s a good neighbor: The architects set the scale of the building to that of the adjacent rowhouses. Facade details were determined by drawing lines from the neighboring houses, which wrap around the new building. The architect’s incorporated a large court and retractable rear facade leading to an enclosed garden with the hope that the neighborhood could use these spaces as their own backyard.


Photo: Iwan Baan

Kukje Art Center
Seoul, South Korea
Designed by SO-IL
Why it’s a good neighbor: Set in a residential zone of Seoul, the building doesn’t call attention to itself, but, rather, draws a form that’s novel and spatially interesting that still manages to respect the surrounding urban fabric. The neighborhood even inspired the form of the building, with the in-between spaces created by the chain-mail facade recalling the winding paths threaded throughout the area.


Rapperswil-Jona, Switzerland
Designed by :mlzd
Why it’s a good neighbor: Unlike the Kukje Gallery, Janus is, how should we put it, flashy. There’s no arguing that, but the architects scaled down the structure and tucked it behind the town museum, which peaks over the new addition. The folds of the facade respond to the adjacent house so as to not block its windows. That’s considerate.


Vertical House
Paris, France
Designed by Aude Borromee Architecte
Why it’s a good neighbor: The Vertical House updates the Parisian townhouse with a sensitive touch. The design, with its maroon-colored steel, plate glass, and glass brick (yes!), cites the Maison de Verre, Paris’s original glass house. The addition of vine helps endear this contemporary home with its brick-and-mortar neighbors.


House In Travessa Do Patrocínio
Lisbon, Portugal
Designed by Luís Rebelo de Andrade, Tiago Rebelo de Andrade, Manuel Cachão Tojal,
Why it’s a good neighbor: The most-striking aspect of this house is its thick-planted green facade, which, yes, may interrupt the townhome fabric of the area but that doesn’t do so without good reason. The lush facade, what the architects describe as the “face of a garden,” functions as a “mini lung” blowing fresh air into a neighborhood with few trees or vegetation. And that’s got to count for something, right?


Gootstraat, Belgium
Designed by LENS’ASS architecten
Why it’s a good neighbor: The architects transformed this former inn into a new commercial space, but you wouldn’t know it until you walked in. Salvaged wood, collected from nearby torn-down buildings, was re-fashioned into movable louvers that open up and close off the shop to the outer courtyard. LENS went to pains to omit all “visual noise” that would have resulted by a more radical, and obtrusive, intervention.


Villa Sollaire
Morzine, France
Designed by Jérémie Koempgen Architecture
Why it’s a good neighbor: The pitched roof and extensive use of timber help the Villa Sollaire blend into this Alpine town, but it would be a mistake to dismiss the design as retrogade. The architects contracted local craftsmen to construct the bespoke facade, which is inscribed with a subtle but intelligent pattern. Behind this screen, a series of asymmetrically placed windows create a moire effect that you won’t find anywhere else in the neighborhood.


Shou Sugi Ban
Maarn, Netherlands
Designed by BYTR Architecten
Why it’s a good neighbor: So your next-door neighbor decides to build an addition to his house according to a design of his own making. Time to report him to the community board? Not if he can pull of something as restrained and handsome as Shou Sugi Ban. The addition is anchored to a relatively unremarkable single family home, to which it thankfully pays little tribute, beyond scale. The quirky roofline and the dark-stained exterior help distinguish it from its neighbors, but it’s still reserved enough to not peek over the fence.


City Hall of El Puerto de Santa María
Santa María, Cádiz, Spain
Designed by Estudio Carbajal
Why it’s a good neighbor: The architects behind this new wing of the City Hall of El Puerto de Santa Maria are well-practiced in the art of stealth. The structure, a sleek, white slab with thin marble panels covering its facade, stands sneakily behind the city’s neoclassical town hall. The whiteness of the original building is mirrored onto the addition, which is more than content to fade into the background. Still, the quality of the new wing merits attention all its own.


South Place Hotel
London, UK
Designed by Allies and Morrison
Why it’s a good neighbor: The South Place Hotel tries a little too hard to fit in. The design replicates period details from nearby buildings and updates them using contemporary materials so that the forms remain more or less the same, only stripped of any excess ornament. The result is an austere, yet accessible addition to the street that is worthy of its precedents.

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