The owner of this villa in a rural bit of The Netherlands came to Amsterdam-based firm Paul de Ruiter Architects with a tricky request. The owner wanted a "simple, abstract, yet spectacular villa," the architects write. It had to use very little energy and it needed to have a limited impact on the protected ecological site it would sit on. It was like a riddle, and the natural solution lied in the composition. The result: two stacked squares, one an "uncompromising glass box" hovering above ground, the other an "underground volume" for a garage, workspace, and storage. While certainly not the first perched contemporary spread, nor the first underground dwelling, Villa Kogelhof has done both so superbly—the glazed glass! the reflecting pool! the stone stairs! the photovoltaic panels! the "planned windmill!"—the design just took home a prestigious Dutch ARC13 Architecture Prize.
The owner was only allowed to build here on the condition that the land was returned to its "pre-agricultural state." This meant planting some 71,000 six-year-old trees and digging up a rectangular pond. The house was built to be energy neutral and comfortable in all seasons, so besides solar panels and a windmill, the architecture itself boasts a so-called climate-façade—basically a layer of sun-reflecting fabric that can be rolled and unrolled on the interior of the glass walls. Other than that, it's hard to know how exactly an isolated glass box in The Netherlands would manage to use less energy—but we'll just have to take their word for it.
Interestingly, the commenters over at Dezeen are unimpressed: "Ugh, this is too artificial for a living space. I think one day the owner would like to open the window..." and "who would want to live in that mausoleum?" and "it'd be more ecological without so many sport cars." Sheesh, tough crowd.