The world is full of extreme landscapes with varying harsh conditions, from scorching deserts to icy mountains. In order to combat these extreme conditions, architects are often naturally pushed to create innovative and experimental designs that can not only survive but thrive in these environments. Although these show-stopping designs were initially designed primarily to withstand the complex landscape, the design techniques caught on, and they set a new standard for architects worldwide, pushing designers to go one step further. 

  1. Experimental architecture in a forest 
Examples of How Landscape Has Provoked Experimental Architecture-Sheee1
Løvtag Treetop Cabin_©Soeren Larsen
Examples of How Landscape Has Provoked Experimental Architecture-Sheee2
Løvtag Treetop Cabin interior©Soeren Larsen

The Løvtag Treetop Cabin was designed by Sigurd Larsen in Hadsund, Denmark. In the true spirit of a playful treehouse, the architects took this cabin one step further by wrapping the cabin around a living tree in the middle of a forest. The surrounding landscape did not simply inspire the architects but also contributed to the entire design concept, as the cabin became a genuine treehouse. The cabin perches eight metres above the ground, taking its guests up into the tree, building their unique connection to the lush landscape. The central trunk defines the floorplan in a pinwheel-type layout, including a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living area. Guests enter the treetop cabin via a sweeping wooden bridge, and from this central space, there is a wooden ladder for guests to climb further up the tree to reach the rooftop terrace. This cabin pushes structural boundaries with the architects’ experimental design around a living organism, giving the treetop cabin a natural lifespan along with it. 

2. Experimental architecture on a cliff

Examples of How Landscape Has Provoked Experimental Architecture-Sheee3
Casa En El Torón_©Onnis Luque
Examples of How Landscape Has Provoked Experimental Architecture-Sheee4
Casa En El Torón_ ©Onnis Luque

Casa En El Torón was designed by IUA Ignacio Urquiza Arquitectos in Mazunte, Mexico. Untouched clifftops have become endangered; however, in recognising this, these architects set themselves a goal to physically impact this site as gently as possible. The El Torón reserve is a protected area at the southernmost point of the Mexican Pacific coastline, defined by jagged topography and dense vegetation. Due to the topography constraints, the architects split this house into three modules to respectfully work around the natural land. This new concept for a coastline house came from a desire to honour the natural landscape of the stunning cliff. This desire led to a lightweight architecture that gently ‘touches’ the land, moving flexibly in the way the topography led them. The structure consists of only local materials such as palm roofs and stone from the excavation, and 80% of the vegetation under the building’s footprint was displaced to the immediate surroundings. The house adopts experimental techniques of minimising the use of windows and doors to create a semi-open structure that still possesses privacy and security to indulge in the rich landscape enveloping the home. 

3. Experimental architecture in a desert

Examples of How Landscape Has Provoked Experimental Architecture-Sheet5
The Invisible House Façade_©The Local Project
Examples of How Landscape Has Provoked Experimental Architecture-Sheet6
The Invisible House Interior_©Dezeen

The Invisible House was designed by Tomas Osinski and Chris Hanely in California, USA. The Invisible House reflects the natural beauty of the desert landscape to create a one-of-a-kind elegant façade. This innovative design pushes the boundaries forward by stripping the layers backwards. Designed by an architect and a film producer as a work of art that offers a space for creativity to grow. The cantilevered volume was developed in response to the landscape with monotone ultra-minimalist furnishings to let guests feel part of the landscape. Clad entirely in mirrors to offer maximum privacy from the exterior whilst providing 360 views of the landscape from the interior, connecting the guests to their surrounding nature. The designers carried out a biological survey before completion to ensure no wildlife would be harmed by the mirror design – specifically birds. Instead of creating a house with traditional desert vernacular, these designers chose a unique path that creates a similar effect of blending into the environment while simultaneously cr eating a bold piece of art. 

4.  Experimental architecture in snow/ on a mountain/ on ice

Examples of How Landscape Has Provoked Experimental Architecture-Sheet7
Skýli Mountain Shelter Snow_©Utopia Arkitekter
Examples of How Landscape Has Provoked Experimental Architecture-Sheet8
Skýli Mountain Shelter_©Utopia Arkitekter

Skýli Mountain Shelter was designed by Utopia Arkitekter in Iceland. This concept was designed to deliver shelter for up to fifteen mountaineers, which could be easily moved around between remote locations. It was designed with four sharp gables to represent the most traditional shelter for hikers: a tent. Like a tent, it was intended to be clad in brightly coloured steel for the hikers to spot in the distance in the worst conditions, even when it is almost entirely engulfed by snow, as well as nodding to the colourful architecture of Reykjavik. The cladding materials use rapeseed oil instead of fossil-based oils to reduce its negative impact; it is resistant to temperatures below zero and corrosion, and the large, glazed openings can withstand high UV radiation, making it perfect for high and icy altitudes. By adopting innovative methods, it can accommodate a large number of mountaineers at once, such as folding bunk beds that climb up the walls. Housing many people at once would supposedly heat the hut naturally with the gas cooking equipment as a backup; these simple methods allow for such a unique structure to be mobile in extreme conditions, the first of its kind.

5. Experimental architecture on water

Examples of How Landscape Has Provoked Experimental Architecture-Sheet9
Examples of How Landscape Has Provoked Experimental Architecture-Sheet10
Waterwoningen Interior_©Rohmer

Waterwoningen was designed by Architectenbureau Marlies Rohmer in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The population of humans is exponentially increasing, and cities are running out of homes for everyone. There are several solutions to the global housing crisis, and one of these potential solutions could be floating housing developments, using water and land for construction. Waterwoningen is an experimental housing district of 75 floating homes and waterside dyke houses. The collection of immovable homes is connected using jetties to replace paved pathways, creating a small floating village, the first of its kind in Europe. Taking inspiration from a typical houseboat yet equipped with all the offerings a typical house on land would have. Although the houses’ form is modest, this project’s overall concept and engineering push architectural boundaries, paving a new way for the future housing norm. The interior comfort of these homes competes with inland homes with just as much electricity and hot water, creating a quality life on water which was never on offer before. 


Architizer (2024). Waterwoningen. [online]. Available at: 

Astbury, J (2019). Sigurd Larsen completes the treetop hotel cabin. [online]. Available at:

Brady, R (2024). Off Shore: 8 Buildings That Live on Water. [online]. Available at: 

Gibson, E (2020). Mirror-clad Invisible House reflects its desert surroundings. [online]. Available at:

O’Keefe, A (2024). The Invisible House by Tomas Osinski and Chris Hanely. [online]. Available at: 

Ott, C (2022). House in El Toron / IUA Ignacio Urquiza Arquitectos. [online]. Available at: 

Revilla, A (2024). Into The Wild: 5 Buildings Detailed to Withstand Extreme Environments. [online]. Available at: 

Simoes, E (2019). Cold Architecture- 8 Buildings to welcome snowy winters. [online]. Available at: 


Image 1. Soeren Larsen. Løvtag Treetop Cabin. [photograph]. Available at: 

Image 2. Soeren Larsen. Løvtag Treetop Cabin Interior. [photograph]. Available at: 

Image 3. Onnis Luque. Casa En El Torón. [photograph]. Available at: 

Image 4. Onnis Luque. Casa En El Torón. [photograph]. Available at: 

Image 5. The Local Project. The Invisible House Façade. [photograph]. Available at: 

Image 6. Dezeen. The Invisible House interior. [photograph]. Available at: 

Image 7. Utopia Arkitekter. Skýli Mountain Shelter Snow. [photograph]. Available at: 

Image 8. Utopia Arkitekter. Skýli Mountain Shelter. [photograph]. Available at: 

Image 9. Rohmer. Waterwoningen. [photograph]. Available at: 

Image 10. Rohmer. Waterwoningen interior. [photograph]. Available at: 


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