Top 5 design and architectural projects for alternative living

Alternative living has been coming up more and more in recent design and architectural projects, from an off-grid energy-saving lifestyle to living on water.

Here we have picked five projects that showcase unconventional habitats, including both built and conceptual projects.

5. Sky lodges over Peru 


Transparent sleeping capsules that are suspended over Peru’s Sacred Valley of Cuzco is offered by adventure tours firm Natura Vive.

Three sky lodges have been installed as accommodation for, with lodgers having to climb 400 feet (122m), or hike.


Natura Vive’s sleeping pods measure up to 24 ft in length and 8ft in height and width. Each unit is handcrafted from aerospace aluminium and weather resistant polycarbonate. It includes four beds, a dining area and private bathroom that is separated from the bedroom by an insulated wall.

The pods feature six windows and four ventilation ducts that ensure a comfortable atmosphere. It also uses an alternative lighting system that consists of four interior lamps and a reading light, all powered using solar panels.

4. WaterNest 100 floating houses by Giancarlo Zema

London-based firm EcoFloLife has developed an eco-friendly floating housing unit, designed exclusively by Italian architect Giancarlo Zema.

WaterNest 100 is a 100m2 structure, 12m in diametre and 4m high, made entirely out of recycled glued laminated timber and a recycled aluminium hull.


The balconies for the unit are conveniently located on the sides and due to the large windows, allow for expansive views over the water.

The use of sustainable materials and production systems makes the project 98% recyclable. Additionally, due to a system of internal micro-ventilation and air conditioning, WaterNest 100 is qualified as a low-consumption residential habitat.

3. Van Gogh’s bedroom in Arles painting 

All three versions of Van Gogh’s famous painting of his bedroom in Arles, France is being displayed in Chicago and in celebration of the exhibition, the Art Institute of Chicago has recreated the room and put it up for rent on Airbnb for just $10.

Interested guests can rent the simply furnished, brightly coloured space in Chicago for only $10/night through Airbnb, listed by ‘Van Gogh’ himself.


This room will make you feel like you’re living in a painting. It’s decorated in a Post-Impressionist style, reminiscent of Southern France. It features furniture, bright colors, and artwork.

2. Underwater ‘oceanscrapers’ by Vincent Callebaut 

As a distinct contrast to high-rise developments, Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut is looking downwards – towards the ocean depths.

The designer – who specialises in eco-friendly projects – who released a series of futuristic l drawings showing what sustainable, floating cities composed of “oceanscrapers” off the coast of South America could look like.


His concept is for 3D-printed villages which would use water turbines on the ocean floor to capture energy, bioreactors to recycle organic waste, and biofuel production to neutralise ocean acidification.

Each inverted skyscraper has 250 floors and is half a kilometre wide. It has a jellyfish-like structure with the entrance on the surface.

Fresh drinking water will be produced by a power plant using water pressure to separate out the salt, and oxygen will be renewed through chimneys in the tower.

1. 3D-printed building for off-grid living by SOM

Architecture office Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has created a 3D-printed building that self-generates power and shares the energy with a partnering vehicle. The project presents itself as a model for off-grid living.

Working in partnership with the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the architects have created a curved pavilion which it claims to be the world’s largest 3D-printed polymer structure.


Oak Ridge has a vehicle using the same technology that links it to the structure using a closed-loop battery system.

This prototype aims to display how energy can be shared between a building an d a motorised vehicle. It has been developed for an initiative called the Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy (AMIE) which researches new ways of thinking about the generation, storage and usage of electrify.

The SOM-designed structure is composed of 3D-printed panels that hold multiple purposes. It acts as an exterior cladding, while the panels also provide structural support, insulation and moisture protection.

The envelope of the pavilion is made up of a high efficiency enclose of approximately 80% opaque panels with 20% glazing.

In addition, solar panels are used in the roof, feeding a battery under the building, which powers the structure at night. The 3D-printed vehicle also generates its own power using a hybrid electrical system.

The building and the vehicle share power with each other through a wireless system that transmits via electromagnetic fields, then captured and distributed by a receiving device.


This entry was posted in Design, Editor's Picks, Portfolio. Bookmark the permalink.

Add a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *