Following Norman Foster’s unveiling of the Foster Retreat holiday home, here are 12 houses featured on Dezeen that were designed by the world’s most famous architects, including Zaha Hadid, Mies van der Rohe and David Adjaye.
The world’s best-known architects are often associated with mega-projects such as Olympic stadiums or Manhattan skyscrapers.
But some who later rose to stardom tried out their ideas on small residential projects early in their careers, while others have created houses for themselves, their friends or clients at the peak of their powers.
This list, a selection of a dozen houses designed by some of architecture’s biggest names, includes lesser-known projects from Pritzker Architecture Prize-winners alongside icons like modernist architect Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye.
Foster Retreat, USA, by Norman Foster
British architect Foster has become a household name through the countless landmark projects undertaken by the studio that he founded in 1967, Foster + Partners.
This month he unveiled Foster Retreat, an angular holiday home for his friends that also features furniture designed by Foster for Japanese brand Karimoku. The home was built opposite the architect’s own Martha’s Vineyard residence.
Foster is also designing a glass-box penthouse in New York for fellow architect Neri Oxman and her husband, billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman.
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22 Parkside, UK, by Richard Rogers
Richard Rogers, who passed away in late 2021, was one of the world’s most famous architects and known for pioneering the high-tech style that emerged in the 1970s.
Designed by Rogers and his then-wife Su in the late 1960s for his parents in Wimbledon, south-west London, 22 Parkside was intended to demonstrate a new pre-fabricated construction system for building homes quickly and affordably.
“This was going to be a standardised system to solve the whole of the British housing problem,” Rogers told Dezeen in an interview. “It didn’t! But it did certainly lead to most of the work which I still do some 50 years later and more.”
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Farnsworth House, USA, by Mies van der Rohe
The influential 20th-century modernist Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is among the world’s best-known architects.
One of his most revered works is Farnsworth House, which was completed in 1951 as a weekend getaway for a prominent doctor. It is considered a significant example of the international architectural style.
The 140-square-metre home comprises horizontal planes supported by steel columns, with floor-to-ceiling glass forming the external walls and allowing visitors to see straight through from one side to the other.
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E-1027, France, by Eileen Gray
Irish architect Eileen Gray was a major figure in the early modernist movement, whose significance was only fully appreciated after her death in 1976.
Her seminal E-1027 house in the south of France was her first major project, and is another important example of the international style.
Non-profit organisation Association Cap Moderne completed a renovation of the modern home last year, returning it to its original 1929 state.
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Capital Hill Residence, Russia, by Zaha Hadid
The late Zaha Hadid – sometimes nicknamed “queen of the curve” – is perhaps the best-known female architect in history and has designed buildings including the MAXXI museum in Rome and the London Aquatics Centre.
The deconstructivist Iraqi-British icon was prolific, but only completed one private residence – a house in the Barvikha Forest near Moscow built for a wealthy businessman.
Its defining feature is a master suite set atop a slender concrete stalk that raises it high above the tree canopy.
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Secular Retreat, UK, by Peter Zumthor
Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, a winner of both the Pritzker Prize and the RIBA Royal Gold Medal, has developed a cult following over his long career defined by a resolutely minimalist style.
The Secular Retreat house was Zumthor’s first permanent building in the UK, a holiday home designed to celebrate the Devon landscape like the villas of his hero, Italian architect Andrea Palladio.
It took more than 10 years to build thanks to its extensive use of concrete rammed by hand – a technique that gives stripes to the walls, both inside and out.
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Mole House, UK, by David Adjaye
David Adjaye is one of the world’s best-known architects, with four presidents and singer Bono speaking at the presentation ceremony for his RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 2021 and Time magazine naming him among the world’s 100 most influential people in 2017.
Among the residential projects by the British-Ghanaian architect is Mole House in east London, a renovation completed in 2020 for the artist Sue Webster.
The building sits atop a labyrinth of filled-in tunnels dug illegally over four decades by its previous owner.
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Gehry House, USA, by Frank Gehry
Canadian architect Frank Gehry gained worldwide attention for the mind-bending shapes of his buildings, which include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The architect even appeared in an episode of The Simpsons.
In 1978 he designed a radical extension to his Santa Monica home, using cheap materials like corrugated steel and chainlink fence to disrupt the shape of the original suburban building through a series of interlocking structures.
“The neighbors got really pissed off,” Gehry later recalled in an interview. “Two doors south of me was a lawyer. She complained to the city and filed a lawsuit.”
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Casa Ocho Quebradas, Chile, by Alejandro Aravena
Pritzker Prize-winning Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena is best known for the social housing projects he has created with his studio Elemental.
But Aravena has also tried his hand at private residences – most notably Casa Ocho Quebradas, a concrete house on the Pacific Coast completed in 2019.
The structure is defined by a huge tilted chimney that leans against the main volume of the home and acts as a flue for a circular fire pit inside.
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Villa Savoye, France, by Le Corbusier
Among the most famous architects ever, Le Corbusier is known especially for his modernist housing solutions for densely populated cities.
He also designed a number of houses, the best-known of which is the top-heavy Villa Savoye in northern France, built in 1931 as a holiday home for the Savoye family.
Widely considered one of the most important houses of the 20th century, the top-heavy structure was designed according to Le Corbusier’s Five Points of Architecture – the principles he considered the basis for modernist architecture.
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Suteki House, USA, by Kengo Kuma
Kengo Kuma is one of Japan’s best-known architects, and last year was the only architect named on Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people, having previously designed the centrepiece stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
He designed a concept house outside Portland for the Japanese building company Suteki using the ancient East Asian landscaping principle of shakkei, which involves borrowing from elements of the surrounding natural landscape.
Along with fellow leading Japanese architect Tadao Ando, Kuma is currently designing a vacation home for reality TV megastar Kim Kardashian.
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Kaufmann House, USA, by Richard Neutra
Unlike most others on this list, Austrian-American architect Richard Neutra rose to prominence mostly by building private homes for clients.
His most famous work is Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, a boxy two-storey residence completed in 1946 that bears many of the hallmarks of modernist architecture.
The client, retail entrepreneur Edgar J Kaufmann, had earlier commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to build the famous Fallingwater house.
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