9. Villa Spies
Architect: Staffan Berglund
Where: Torö, Sweden
The flying saucer as a serious, replicable typology for modern living has never quite caught on. But it has never gone away either.
The Villa Spies, designed originally as a prototype for vacation homes to be built by the Danish businessman Simon Spies but built instead as his Swedish home, resembles both Lautner's Chemosphere in Los Angeles from 1960, and the prefab Futuro house from a few years later.
But neither was quite the pleasure palace as this two story, mostly concrete and plastic home.
With plush carpeting, womblike chairs, and a circular sunken couch, and an intimate, six-person dining room that, at the touch of the button, would rise up through the house from the first floor to the second, Villa Spies could have been a Playboy mansion in outer space.
10. Bavinger House
Architect: Bruce Goff
Where: Norman, Oklahoma
Goff (1904-1982), largely self-taught as an architect, was inspired by the founders of organic architecture, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. But it was Goff who took the term literally, creating homes that really did seem alive.
The Bavinger House, with its spiraling wall of stone inset with colored glass, appears to grow from its forested site, surrounded with flagstone-terraced gardens and spring-fed ponds.
The home, built for a couple of artists, is suspended by cables from a central mast. Separate platforms serve for floors, and there are no internal walls.
Open for many years to the public, the home has been closed for several years and threatened with destruction by the trust that was formed to preserve it.
11. Tree Snake Houses
Architect: Luis and Tiago Rebelo de Andrade
Where: Pedras Salgadas Eco Resort, near Vidago, Portugal
It may not be in the clouds, but the two Tree Snake Houses in this nature park are joyful and elevating.
The architects, seeking to provide "an object that could recreate the fantasy of tree houses," used the image of a snake undulating through the forest.
Woodsy, warm, and walking on stilts on the outside, inside the vacation homes are light and deeply minimal—to contrast with the natural world just outside—yet provide guests with kitchenettes.
Who says wild can't also be mild?
12. House 77
Architect: José Cadilhe and Emanuel Fontoura of dIONISO Lab
Where: Póvoa de Varzim, Portugal
It's easy—or relatively easy—to build a truly unusual house when it's off by itself. The neighbors won't mind and the house's wings or bulges won't knock into anything.
But in this densely populated beach town, the architects had to squeeze this three-story wonder into a street of row houses.
Inside, the house is a beauty, with free-floating stair risers accessing three levels, opening through glass walls to a private garden to the rear and a busy street to the front.
Privacy? A metal screen folds like an accordion to close up the front. For light, and to tie into the town's seafaring past, the screen has been perforated with ancient symbols used by the town's fishermen to mark their gear.
Photos: Brian Thomas Jones Photography, Nacasa & Partners Inc., Lynne Rostochil, Ricardo Oliveira Alves, John Gollings, Staffan Berglund, Iwan Baan Studio; and courtesy of all the participating architectural firms