August 15, 2022

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Unique House Styles From Around The World – Forbes Home

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Across the globe, homes have been built with a mixture of earth, water and timber. Despite their common beginnings, houses look, feel and function differently within each culture and climate.

Let’s look at unique homes from around the world. We’ll cover styles ranging from traditional architecture and nomadic homes to contemporary amalgams and futuristic houses.

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1. Pueblo and Adobe-Style Houses: Southwest America

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Adobe-style homes date back over 10,000 years and were originally built by the Pueblo people in the river basins of the Southwestern United States. A single-family dwelling is often considered an adobe, while multistoried, permanent and attached homes that build community are considered a pueblo. Adobe homes are fireproof, biodegradable and naturally comfortable because the adobe keeps the interior cool in hot weather and stores heat in winter.

2. Neo-Andean Chalets: Bolivia

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In El Alto, Bolivia, Freddy Mamani has transformed more than 100 adobe-colored chalets into beautiful works of art since the early 2000s. Mamani’s work is strongly influenced by the Aymara culture, indigenous to the Andes.

Mamani is Aymara himself, and pulls inspiration from the traditional Aymara fabric called Aguayo to bring a characteristically colorful palette to an otherwise monochromatic city.

Mamani isn’t alone in his movement to invigorate El Alto with culture and color, so his Neo-Andean style has become a movement.

3. TiébéLé Homes and Mausoleums: Burkina Faso

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The remarkably hand-painted town of TiébéLé decorates the clay surface of each house with patterns and symbols that can communicate the standing of its inhabitants. The artwork also differentiates homes from mausoleums and references local folklore and history.

4. Thematic Homes: United States

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From Graceland and Neverland to real-life Hobbit holes and fairytale cottage rentals, what started as theme park architecture in the U.S. has expanded our definition of house from essential shelter to immersive everyday entertainment.

Characterized by literary or film references, sculpted foam or 3D-printed facades, elaborate murals, hidden passageways, or curly slides, theme-park-like homes are popping up all over the world, wherever wealth amasses.

However, the value of thematic homes is far from stable. A positive return relies on a buyer’s sense of wonder—and commitment to maintenance. In many cases, like the Winchester Mystery House, it’s more cost effective to convert the property into a destination and charge admission to enjoy its allure. In other cases, like the abandoned neighborhood of fairytale castles in Turkey, construction may never end.

5. Siheyuan Compounds: China

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Siheyuan building composition centers a courtyard in the middle of a residential, palace, temple, monastery, family business, or government compound. This style dates back to the Western Zhou period and became a fundamental characteristic of Chinese architecture. The compound usually includes a master residence at the north, east and west wings or residences, front and back courtyards and pavilions on the north and south side.

6. Hanok Houses: Korea

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Hanok encompasses a variety of traditional Korean architectural styles that existed prior to the arrival of western influences. Hanoks are known for their curved roofs with a distinguished ridge beam, called yongmaru. They’re adaptable for various functions and are often laid out in either an L, U or square shape.

7. Konso Walled Villages: Ethiopia

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The Konso village sits in the rocky south-central highlands of Ethiopia. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 2011 to recognize and protect the community’s cultural and architectural achievements. Their paleta, terraced walled villages, exemplify long-lasting vernacular engineering that protect the Konso people from erosion, water scarcity and intrusion.

Their homes are made from wood and mud thatch. But, don’t assume that each house holds one nuclear family. The recognizable dome-shaped roofs of Konso villages cover meeting and work rooms. Every village within Konso contains multiple committees, and each committee has their own open-sided house, called a Mora.

8. Biophilic High-Rises: Singapore

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Biophilic design was coined in 1984 by E.O. Wilson, a biologist and University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard. But the concept of integrating nature into everyday structures is as old as—well—homes. Naturally, the adoption of biophilic design can be found all over the world, from the Netherlands to Singapore.

Singapore exemplifies biophilic philosophy in its vision to be a “city in a garden.” Eden and Park Nova, two luxury residential projects in Singapore, use garden terraces to provide shade and open vistas to let in a ventilating breeze.

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9. Korowai Tree House: Indonesia

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Before there were rooftop gardens on our high-rise homes, there may have been homes in the tree canopy. The Korowai people, also called the Kolufo, on the island of New Guinea, have built tree houses over 100 feet above the ground without cranes or modern machinery.

10. Turf and Timber Homes: Iceland

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Turf roofs are a great way to insulate Icelandic homes from chilly North Atlantic winds. Grass-covered timber structures were used as homes up to the 19th century, when they went out of fashion in favor of modern materials. However, turf roofs seem to be making a comeback—not just in Iceland—for their traditional, aesthetic, and environmental value.

11. Izba Cabin: Russia

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The rectangular log cabins or huts of Russia are called Izba. Wood is an abundant resource in Russia, so wooden homes were common up to the 19th century. The exterior decoration of the home depends on the tribe that the family belonged to.

12. Iroquois Longhouse: North America

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Outside of Toronto is a reconstructed village of Iroquois longhouses to show visitors what these structures looked like more than 600 years ago. But the concept of longhouses dates back much further than that. Neolithic longhouses were introduced in central and western Europe about 7,000 years ago.

13. Yurt: Central Asia

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Around 440 BC, Herodotus described yurts used by the Scythian people, so we know that they’re at least that old. Yurts are round tents quickly erected using wooden lattices under a felt wrap. A stove and chimney are usually put in the center.

14. Beit Sha’ar Tents: Arabic Desert Region

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Also called Bedouin black tents, beit sha’ar are used in the Arabic desert region and are dated as early as the 7th century. Bedouin black tents are used primarily in winter since they are too hot to use in summer.

Traditionally, Bedouin tents are made from goat hair panels sewn together. The interior is often divided by a curtain or rug to create one side for men (al-shigg or Shigg) and the other for women (al-mahram or hareem). The Shigg is where guests are hosted and coffee, which is a hallmark of hospitality among the Bedouin, is prepared.

15. Earth Shelters: United States

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As 20th and 21st century homes age, many in the U.S. and abroad are looking to traditional and sustainable home building styles. In the 1970s and ‘80s, earthen homes or earth-bermed houses made an appearance in the U.S.— and their popularity is still growing.

Whether inspired by the turf houses of Iceland or the adobe shelters of the Pueblo, 21st century denizens are innovating the concept of earthen homes for their resilience to extreme climate and crisis events.

Repurposed waste is sometimes incorporated into these homes. Packed plastic bottle bricks are sometimes placed behind plaster to create interior or exterior walls. Glass bottles can be embedded into the ceiling or walls of these modern mud homes to add long-lasting decoration. And stacked tires are often used to create retaining walls. These resourceful additions to an ancient house style will leave more distinctive marks for future archaeologists to uncover.

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Bottom Line

People are looking to traditional methods and materials to innovate the homes of the future to be more sustainable and beautiful. Homes are getting more color and culture. We’re embracing the earth and trees as ways to keep our homes cool. Homes are a place to immerse yourself in an experience, whether it’s inspired by your favorite book or the beautiful surrounding landscape.

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