Natural stone has always been in man's construction history, but perhaps today more than ever, stone appears as a topical issue able to reflect and fully foster the new ethical and aesthetic standards of contemporary architecture.
Sustainability has been a crucial aspect of building for decades, becoming at the same time an expressive potential for architects and landscape designers from all over the world, who are currently engaged in finding ambitious and innovative solutions that interpret the new and growing green awareness.

At the beginning some archetype projects, with the merit of having shown new possible ways of living, have allowed a first fundamental leap forward, such as:

Fallingwater – Stewart, United States (Frank Lloyd Wright) 1939

The archetype of organic architecture, the House on the Waterfall fosters harmony in the natural development of the land and the artificial construction, which is also observed in the choice of stone and wood materials in an alternating of horizontal and vertical planes.

Casa de Retiro Espiritual – El Ronquillo, Spain (Emilio Ambasz) 1975

The first architecture in the private sector involved in translating a spiritual experience focused on meditation and on relationship with nature into an architectural form.

Even recent architectures have the merit of having interpreted the theme of a naturalized architecture with new and contemporary languages:

Villa Vals – Vals, Switzerland (SeARCH + CMA) 2009

Also called The Hole, this house is hypogean, hidden in the Alpine slope and developed around a central courtyard through a large stone and glass façade.
A contemporary cave, a mix between a lodge and a house that recalls an absolute sense of protection inside the home walls and a direct contact with nature, surrounded by precious construction materials, natural light and partial views.

Meera House - Singapore (Guz Architects) 2010

A sort of contemporary Babylon with hanging gardens and water basins in a continuum of indoor and outdoor spaces.
The layered composition of the house allows its use on articulated levels with planar surfaces and curves covered by grass and shrubs or filled with water.

Garden and House – Tokyo (Ryue Nishizawa) 2013

In overcrowded Tokyo, living in confined spaces is perfectly combined with the contact of a private green space in a project where subtraction and absence is able to shape the construction.

House for Trees - Tan Binh District, Vietnam (VTN Architects) 2014

Five blocks covered in local coursed stone to evoke cardboard containers from the top of which trees emerge.
The houses offer a tropical lifestyle in cohesion with nature, also thanks to the internal courtyard on which each block opens through glass doors and windows that provide natural lighting and ventilation, the façades to the outside conceal and protect the living spaces.

Vertical gardens, green roofing, modular wooden structures, split stone coverings and raw natural materials are used for creating interesting projects that reflect eco-sustainable lifestyles, where the idea of living in a modern city is no longer separate from living in nature.

Many nations are moving in this common direction, promoting and supporting projects in which architecture does no longer exclusively serve man, but also the environment, and in which the design of living spaces for human beings becomes a search for new solutions favouring the development of biodiversity.

Re-naturalizing our cities to give life to the city of tomorrow, from the restoration of the most degraded areas to the downtown squares: the public and private urban spaces are getting greener, and the faces of our cities are changing.

Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall – Fukuoka, Japan (Emilio Ambasz) 1995

The continuation of the garden from the ground floor to the steps forms terraces accessible to the public directly from the street: an innovative solution to the widespread problem, of allotting urban space for construction to the detriment of public green space.
What architecture takes away from nature through territorial occupation is returned in the form of a public garden: an artificial hill, an architecture inhabited by greenery.
The central cylindrical volume contains an empty space illuminated from the top, that transforms into a large greenhouse with the function of natural air conditioning of the interior spaces used as offices.

Parkroyal on Pickering Hotel – Singapore (Woha Architects) 2013

The continuous development of the green space from the ground level to the upper floors outlines a sinuous architecture dressed up with tropical plants and hanging gardens.
The natural conformation of the rocks inspires the development of continuous surfaces in a sort of vertical stratification.
Also the configuration of the rooms and interior furnishings are involved in the combination of natural and artificial, in fact every room overlooks the green space, the absolute protagonist of this architectural construction.

One Central Park – Chippendale, Australia (Ateliers Jean Nouvel) 2014

A continuation of the public park from the ground up to the sky through climbing plants and vegetation, which not only give the idea of a vertical garden but also have the function of shielding the internal environments from direct solar irradiation.

HUA, Hualien Residences – Hualien, Taiwan (BIG Architects) under construction

Green in the grey Hualien takes the form of an artificial stratification that divides the land into building areas then extruded upwards, a design exercise that recalls the slopes of a hill.

Bio-architecture, archibiotic architecture, agriculture and urban green, are some of the terms in vogue that are associated with a new way of designing and building the itself through an extensive and innovative use of natural elements which become the true protagonists of building.

This model aims at reducing the human footprint from every point of view, and to pay off the ecological debt that man has contracted against a planet mistreated for too long. A rebalancing between the forces of nature and human forces for a city on human scale whose greatest treasure is the ability to open up to the dimension of nature, safeguarding its existence and encouraging its expansion, while improving the quality of our life.

Liuzhou Forest City – Liuzhou, China (Stefano Boeri Architetti) 2016-2020

A model "of green" city totally self-sufficient from the energetic point of view,where nature and construction join together combining the needs of living to environment protection.
A city-forest in which each building is eco-sustainable and connected in a system for the production of solar and geothermal energy able to meet the energy needs of the housing units, public spaces, electric vehicles in circulation and the high-speed railway line for long-distance connections.

The time has come, therefore, for this new eco-sustainable model to involve also common architectures and our homes, showing that we have fully recognized the usefulness, beauty and emotional value of living in nature.

So let the stone and the elements of nature enter into our homes improving the quality of our lives and the world surrounding us.

Matteo Gaverini
january 2019

Below there are some examples of contemporary, sustainable residential architectures that integrate stone and elements of nature from blogs and reference websites:

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