BBC 2024-02-25 04:32:06


South Carolina primary: Donald Trump easily defeats Nikki Haley in her home state

Donald Trump is one step closer to the Republican presidential nomination after a massive win over Nikki Haley in South Carolina.

The former president won his primary opponent’s home state by a 20-point margin, his fourth consecutive victory.

Mr Trump made no mention of his rival as he celebrated, setting his sights instead on the general election in November.

That will be a likely rematch with his successor in the White House.

“We’re going to look Joe Biden right in the eye,” he told supporters minutes after US media projected him as the winner on Saturday night. “He’s destroying our country – and we’re going to say ‘get out Joe, you’re fired’.”

Mr Trump lauded his party’s “unity” after Saturday’s result, saying: “There’s never been a spirit like this. I have never seen the Republican Party so unified.”

It marked a shift from his response to last month’s primary in New Hampshire, where he raged against Ms Haley for “doing a speech like she won”.

Ms Haley, who once served as a popular two-term governor of South Carolina, congratulated her opponent on his victory in her speech.

She vowed to stay in the race, however, saying the roughly 40% of the vote she received was “not some tiny group”.

“There are huge numbers of voters in our Republican primaries who are saying they want an alternative,” she said, emphasising that her continued campaign was not about her own political ambitions.

“I’m not giving up this fight when a majority of Americans disapprove of both Donald Trump and Joe Biden,” she added.

The Trump campaign dismissed Ms Haley’s continued effort in a statement on Saturday, stating that her “delusion is clouding her judgement, and she is no longer living in reality”.

In the days leading up to the South Carolina vote, the Trump campaign predicted the former president will accumulate enough delegates to formally clinch the nomination within the next month.

Ms Haley does not have a clear path forward – her opponent has a large lead in the delegate count and is polling far ahead in all future contests.

And yet the Haley campaign is still standing, in large part, due to contributions from deep-pocketed donors. That flow of cash has continued despite her facing long odds.

Ms Haley raised $16.5m in January alone, campaign officials said. That was her largest monthly total so far, and much more than Mr Trump’s numbers.

To drive home the point that he believes the primary has now ended, Mr Trump wasted no time in making his victory speech moments after the race was called, not allowing Ms Haley to speak before him as she had done in New Hampshire.

Flanked at his podium on the Columbia state fairgrounds by nearly two dozen allies, including most of the state’s political leaders, he told a raucous crowd: “This was a little sooner than we anticipated.”

Mr Trump certainly has much to boast about with this win. Exit polling conducted by the BBC’s US partner, CBS News, shows that the ex-president bested Ms Haley with both men and women, and among all age groups.

Lauding them for their support, Mr Trump, 77, reminded his audience: “We have a lot of work ahead of us.”

But it does not seem he will be able to fully turn his attention to the general election just yet.

Ms Haley re-committed to staying in the race until at least Super Tuesday – 5 March – when voters in 16 states will cast their ballots on the same day.

“I’m a woman of my word,” the former UN ambassador said. “We’re headed to Michigan tomorrow, and we’re headed to the Super Tuesday states throughout all of next week.”

  • Who’s in running for Trump’s VP pick?
  • Defeat looms over Haley. So why stay in the race?

The former president also remains beleaguered by his many legal troubles, and faces the first of four criminal trials next month

He is also now on the hook for more than half a billion dollars, the combined total of two recent civil trial rulings against him in New York – one for sexual assault and defamation, and another for business fraud.

As Mr Biden racks up a sizeable cash advantage over him in what will likely be the most expensive presidential race in US history, Mr Trump is increasingly relying on donations to cover his soaring legal costs.

It appears the Republican Party could come to his aid. He has consolidated his hold over it by endorsing key allies to lead its national committee.

His daughter-in-law Lara Trump, his pick to take over as co-chair of the Republican Party, has pledged to “spend every penny” of party funds on his legal defence.

US and UK carry out fresh strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen

The Pentagon says US and UK fighter planes have carried out strikes on 18 Houthi sites in Yemen – the fourth such joint operation by the allies.

The US says Saturday’s strikes were directed against storage facilities, drones, air defence systems, radars and a helicopter of the militant movement.

The UK says the allies acted to “further degrade” Houthi capabilities.

There have been sustained attacks by the Iran-backed Houthis on shipping in the important Red Sea trade route.

The Houthis – who control large swathes of Yemen including the capital Sanaa – have been targeting vessels they say are linked to Israel and the West in response to the continuing Israel-Gaza war.

Global supply chains are now facing severe disruption and rising costs as a result of some of the biggest shipping companies diverting journeys away from the Red Sea – one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

  • Who are the Houthis attacking Red Sea ships?
  • Navy Seals presumed dead after anti-Houthi mission
  • What do Red Sea assaults mean for global trade?

In a joint statement, the Pentagon said that Saturday’s “necessary and proportionate strikes specifically targeted 18 Houthi targets across eight locations in Yemen associated with Houthi underground weapons storage facilities, missile storage facilities, one-way attack unmanned aerial systems, air defence systems, radars, and a helicopter.

“These precision strikes are intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities that the Houthis use to threaten global trade, naval vessels, and the lives of innocent mariners in one of the world’s most critical waterways.”

The statement said “the Houthis’ now more than 45 attacks on commercial and naval vessels since mid-November constitute a threat to the global economy, as well as regional security and stability, and demand an international response”.

The strikes were carried out “with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand”, the statement added.

Shortly afterwards, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin stressed that America “will not hesitate to take action, as needed, to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways”.

Separately, UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said “it is our duty to protect lives at sea and preserve freedom of navigation”.

“That is why the Royal Air Force engaged in a fourth wave of precision strikes against Houthi military targets in Yemen”.

The US military said earlier in the day that it had destroyed seven Houthi mobile anti-ship missiles that were being prepared for strikes.

Earlier this week, the crew of a Belize-flagged, British-registered cargo vessel have abandoned ship off Yemen after it was hit by missiles fired by the Houthis.

The price of political opposition in Russia

Following the death of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, another political prisoner is trying to keep the hope of change alive – even from behind bars.

“Freedom costs dearly,” the opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza once wrote to me from a Russian prison cell.

He was quoting his political mentor, Boris Nemtsov, who was murdered in 2015 in Moscow – right beside the Kremlin.

Now Russian President Vladimir Putin’s biggest rival, Alexei Navalny, is dead.

  • Alexei Navalny: What we know about his death
  • Rosenberg: Dissent takes courage – and Navalny supporters are defiant
  • Navalny’s body returned to mother, spokeswoman says

The price of political opposition has never been higher in modern Russia or the goal of change so remote.

Such is the fear of reprisal that Navalny’s death did not spark mass, angry protests. Several hundred people were detained just for laying flowers in his memory.

But Mr Kara-Murza refuses to abandon either his fight or his hope.

This week he urged opposition supporters to “work even harder” to achieve what Navalny and Nemtsov had fought for: the chance to live in a free country.

He made his own choice, long ago. “The price of speaking out is high,” the activist wrote to me, soon after his arrest in 2022.

“But the price of silence is unacceptable.”

Strong men

Alexei Navalny, who was 47, and Vladimir Kara-Murza, 42, are very different men.

Navalny was a social-media phenomenon, a charismatic speaker with some of the egotism of a natural-born leader.

Mr Kara-Murza is a softly spoken intellectual – more back-room lobbyist than crowd-gatherer.

He’s not a household name in Russia even now.

But both men shared the same drive and a conviction that Putin’s Russia was not eternal and political freedom was possible.

Whilst Navalny produced video exposés of corruption at the highest level of power, Mr Kara-Murza lobbied Western governments for sanctions to target officials’ assets and cash stashed abroad.

Both have paid dearly.

In 2015, five years before Navalny was attacked with a nerve agent, Mr Kara-Murza collapsed and fell into a coma.

Two years later, it happened again. Tests in the US confirmed he had been poisoned.

But he never stopped speaking his mind, which included denouncing Mr Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Last year, Mr Kara-Murza was sentenced to 25 years for treason – although the charge sheet listed nothing but peaceful opposition activity.

Return to Russia

When Alexei Navalny chose to fly back to Russia in 2021 after an attempt to kill him, some thought him foolhardy.

Opposition figures who’ve chosen exile over imprisonment argue that sacrifice with no prospect of change is futile.

Navalny thought differently.

“If your beliefs are worth something, you have to be prepared to stand up for them. And if necessary, make some sacrifices,” he wrote shortly before he died on 16 February.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, like Navalny, has a wife and children. He also has residency in the US and a British passport. But he never hesitated about returning to Russia.

“I didn’t think I had the right to continue my political activity, to call other people to action, if I was sitting safely somewhere else,” Mr Kara-Murza wrote to me in 2022, already in prison.

For both men, it was an act of conscience.

Now one is dead and the other is locked up far from his family who’ve only been allowed one phone call in six months.

“I didn’t speak to him myself because I didn’t want to take time away from the kids,” Evgenia Kara-Murza described that call.

The activist’s wife allowed the three children five minutes each.

“I was standing there with a timer,” she said.

Strong women

This week, Navalny’s widow recorded a video statement urging his allies not to give up.

“I want to live in a free Russia, I want to build a free Russia,” said Yulia Navalnaya, vowing to continue her husband’s work.

  • Navalny’s widow faces daunting challenge
  • Navalny’s grieving widow vows to continue his work

Evgenia Kara-Murza was stunned by her bravery. “She’s doing her absolute best to go through hell with her head held high and she is amazing.”

But Mr Kara-Murza’s wife has taken on a demanding role of her own.

Since his arrest in April 2022, she’s been travelling the world, lobbying Western officials to help her husband and other political prisoners, and denouncing Russia’s war on Ukraine.

The invasion is more proof, as she puts it, of Putin’s “murderous regime”.

When we spoke, Evgenia was about to fly back to the US to see their children. She was then heading for London to call on UK ministers to step-up their efforts for Vladimir, a joint British-Russian citizen.

“I want them to be more forceful in trying to get him out, and demanding proper medical attention,” she said.

“But making one government care about its citizen is hard these days.”

Prison persecution

Mr Kara-Murza’s persecution has continued in prison, as it did for Navalny.

The activist has been held in solitary confinement for months and allowed no personal belongings, even photographs of his children.

In January, he was moved to a new prison with tougher conditions, deprived even of his books.

His health, damaged by the poisoning, is deteriorating. Pressure for Mr Kara-Murza’s release has intensified since Navalny’s death.

“The nerve damage is spreading to his right side now. It’s a serious condition that could lead to paralysis,” Evgenia Kara-Murza told me.

This week, she got a rare sighting of her husband on video link from prison to a Moscow court. He was trying to get the Investigative Committee to open a criminal case into his poisoning.

Mr Kara-Murza was in a black uniform that hung loose on his frame, a radical change from the Tweed jackets that were once his trademark.

But his resolve seemed firmer than ever as he urged Russians not to slump into despair.

“We don’t have that right,” he addressed the few supporters and reporters allowed into court, and he insisted that Russia would be free.

“No-one can stop the future.”

What future?

Evgenia Kara-Murza watched that video clip from court “a thousand times”.

“I think he’s doing the right thing – and a great thing,” she told me.

“People feel heartbroken and demoralised and those uplifting words from people who’ve refused to give in to pressure and intimidation are truly important.”

“I’m very proud of Vladimir for staying true to himself, despite this hell.”

Evgenia shares her husband’s faith in the future, as well as his strength. Even now, with so many activists in prison or exile.

“What’s crucially important is remaining a human being and trying to do whatever you can,” she argues.

“Not giving up.”

She points to the end of the USSR and the mass protests then that have always inspired her husband.

“There was nothing – until an opportunity for massive collective action appeared in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Then people went out on the streets,” she says.

“We need to do everything possible to be ready for the moment when the regime shows cracks.”

“For when we get that chance.”

Climate change thwarts cherry blossom travel plans

In Japan, the rare and beautiful 10-day cherry blossom “front” is set to start 10 days earlier this year due to global warming. Here’s what travellers need to know.
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Travellers who arrived in Tokyo in April 2023 to experience the city’s famous cherry tree petals were faced with quite a surprise: instead of blooming as forecast in late March, the pink sakura appeared 10 days earlier than predicted.

This was no freak occurrence: 2023 tied with 2020 and 2021 for a record-early bloom – the definitive earliest since scientific records began in 1953[1] , and earliest since 812, according to historical documents from Kyoto. According to experts, this trend points to a troublesome fact: we are overheating our planet at a frightening pace, and the early sakura are harbingers of more change to come.

Japan’s beloved four seasons are under threat altogether, says Yoshihiro Tachibana, professor of Climate and Ecosystem Dynamics from Japan’s Mie University. “If greenhouse gas reductions cannot be achieved, there is the possibility of cherry blossoms in February. All four seasons are warming. But spring warming is seeing the biggest rise, so the cherry blossom season tends to come earlier and earlier.”

This year, some forecast a start to the sakura season on par with the earliest recorded blooms, around 25 March. But when, exactly, the sacred blooms might appear is really anyone’s guess.

Early cherry blossom season in Japan may be annoying for the plan-ahead traveller, but it’s also drama that transfixes the nation as Japanese people eagerly eye what’s known as the “cherry blossom front”. This chart plots the progress daily of the advancing pink flowers across the Japanese archipelago from the south. Such a predictable line of blossoms is only possible owing to the nation’s predilection for one particular cherry, the Yoshino. Clones of a single (UK) specimen account for 90 percent of the sakura cultivar in Japan.

People take photographs of cherry blossom trees in Tokyo on 19 March 2023 (Credit: Getty Images)

What travellers need to know

Japan has come to be associated with this tree’s tell-tale stirring drifts of powder pink. They’re a sight on many travellers’ bucket lists, but given their fleeting appearance of an ever-shifting 11-day window, guaranteeing a viewing is becoming increasingly fraught for international visitors.

It’s important to note that the timing of the peak cherry blossom viewing varies from year to year depending on the weather. If the weather in the preceding weeks is warm, the blossoms will open early.

“Spring warming is the most important determinant of flowering times for cherry trees,” said Richard B Primack, a researcher and professor of biology at Boston University whose lab focuses on how climate change affects the timing of seasonal biological events. “And because spring weather is getting warmer, cherry trees are flowering earlier. “

According to Primack, sakura’s flowering times have been recorded across Japan for hundreds of years, making them among the best-documented examples of the biological effects of climate change in the world.

“Yoshino cherries are now flowering about two weeks earlier than they did 50 to 60 years ago, and this is due to the warmer weather associated with climate change,” Primack said.

Should travellers find themselves caught out by the shifting sakura, it’s important to be flexible in your itinerary. Arrive too late for peak blooms in Tokyo or Kyoto? Try heading north to be sure of catching some: The latest you can witness the petals in Japan is in Hokkaido in May. Fancy an early spring bloom viewing? Then scamper off to semi-tropical Okinawa in January.

The way forward

Since the progress of the cherries is followed so enthusiastically in Japan, researchers hope such abrupt changes to these phenological events will raise public awareness of the impact of climate change – and encourage citizens to act.

But when it comes to addressing climate change Japan has a long way to go, says Hanna Hakko, a senior associate at E3G, an independent climate change think tank in Tokyo

“Japan is currently facing significant challenges in meeting its mid-term and 2050 climate targets,” she said. “Several analyses indicate that Japan is falling short in replacing fossil fuels with clean energy, especially in the power sector. Both the government and private sectors need to intensify their efforts by implementing policies and increasing investments to retire coal plants, expand renewable energy, and enhance energy efficiency.”

Summers will become so intolerable even the most hardy foreign tourists will cease to visit

The country has been the repeated recipient of the satirical “Fossil of the Day” award – which the Climate Action Network-International (CAN) gives out – at the annual COP conference. The awards are given to the countries who are behind the times when it comes to climate action.

With the recent building of new coal-fired power stations, in many ways, Japan’s energy policies are backwards-looking approaches to the nation’s green efforts.

James Hollow, founder of Tokyo’s Fabric consultancy, which conducts an annual “Sustainability in Japan” study, said we shouldn’t be surprised that “climate consciousness levels are still very low in Japan”.

“Climate change has not been politicised as it has elsewhere. Citizens expect government to take the lead. While activism around climate and social issues is limited,” he said. “But, climate consciousness levels are trending up significantly.”

Japan is becoming acutely aware that not just the spring weather is shifting, but that all seasons are out of kilter. Summers in Japan’s largely concrete cities are becoming unbearably warm and humid for longer, delaying the arrival of cooler autumn weather in the process.

“Summers will become so intolerable even the most hardy foreign tourists will cease to visit,” said Prof Tachibana.

Perhaps the sight of a February sakura front – and summers bereft of tourists who are now evading Tokyo and Kyoto’s soupy 50C (122F) heat – will serve as a motivator for Japan to rethink its approach to the climate crisis. Because without more effective climate action, those cherished four seasons will become just a memory for travellers and locals alike.

— 

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Eight of the world’s most remarkable homes

From Jaipur to Whistler, eight extraordinary, award-winning houses that are both beautiful and low-energy.

“Passive home” design is all about low-energy building made to exploit passive solar energy and establish a comfortable indoor temperature with a low-energy requirement for heating or cooling. It’s a recurring theme in the shortlisted architects of the World Architectural Festival. Programme director Paul Finch tells BBC Culture that he has seen “a far greater concern for sustainability, reflected also in the use of environmentally-friendly materials and adoption of passive house design principles”.

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Held annually over three days, the festival and its sister event Inside World Festival of Interiors offer a global survey of developments in architecture and interior design respectively. Around 550 shortlisted architects present their projects to a panel of judges, from architects and interior designers to engineers. The events’ judging process is unusually transparent, as festival-goers witness it, too.

The festival takes place in cities around the world – the last one was held at the exhibition centre at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. On the final day, shortlisted architects present their projects to another jury and compete for the following gongs: World Building of the Year, Landscape of the Year, Future Project of the Year and Interior of the Year. “Many shortlisted houses and villas took an imaginative approach to sites and their various constraints, turning difficulties into opportunities. They frequently incorporated potential landscape elements and capitalised on natural light,” says Finch.

“There is a greater interest in knowing how much energy is expended when manufacturing materials,” adds Finch. “Wood has become increasingly popular because of its carbon-absorbing credentials. Architects also often favour retro-fitted projects now rather than ones involving demolition and new-builds.” Moreover, changing demographics, the pandemic and climate change are influencing residential architecture, he adds: “Greater life expectancy, intergenerational living and late-life medical and care treatment have pushed health and wellbeing, previously confined to health-sector buildings, such as hospitals, up the agenda.”

Future lockdowns can’t be ruled out, Finch points out. Some architects are factoring in more balconies and other external spaces. They are also including spaces for working from home.

BBC Culture looks at eight projects showcased by WAF and Inside.

The home at 19 Waterloo Street created by SJB in Sydney doesn’t overheat in summer but lets light enter in winter (Credit: Anson Smart)

1. 19 Waterloo Street, Sydney, Australia

This house, designed by Sydney-based SJB, presents an idiosyncratic facade with its irregularly sized and spaced windows. An interplay of semi-circular, rectangular and porthole openings reinforce this eccentricity, which is echoed in a patchwork of reclaimed materials and broken bricks, seen on the building’s exterior. Context is an important aspect of the project. Part of the façade has brickwork that resembles the sandstone bases of neighbouring buildings.  

The house has previously been a butcher, grocer, hatter and restaurant. “Our intent was to deliver a mixed-use house. It now incorporates a home, self-contained flat and shop,” says Adam Haddow, a director at SJB.

Winner of WAF’s World Interior of the Year 2023 award, the house stands on a 30sq-m (323sq-ft) plot. Haddow took ideas from his university thesis that explored how film has been used to create an illusion of greater space. His reference points include Jacques Tati movies Mon Oncle and Playtime that satirised the obsession for regimented uniformity in modernist architecture.

Inside, a feeling of space is achieved by a series of contracting and expanding spaces, from a low-ceilinged kitchen to a grander, high-ceilinged living room. The project revolves chiefly around sustainability through its reuse of materials. The façade’s myriad openings encourage natural ventilation, obviating the need for air-conditioning. The building follows Passivhaus principles: it doesn’t overheat in summer, while sunlight enters easily in winter. Planting across the roof reduces urban heat island effect.

In Jaipur, the House of Solid Stone by Malik Architecture was created with sandstone from a nearby quarry (Credit: Barath Ramamrutham)

2. House of Solid Stone, Jaipur, India

This project reclaims a material that has long been sidelined by local architects – sandstone. Its robust, sustainable qualities have been overlooked for decades in the region (it’s normally reserved for cladding). This project designed by Mumbai-based Malik Architecture, revives it. “This house presented us with an opportunity to evolve a method of building prevalent in traditional, local buildings for centuries,” says Arjun Malik, principal architect at Malik Architecture. “We gave ourselves a simple brief: only stone should be used for its construction. The site read more like an archaeological excavation than a construction site, where the lines between the ‘found’ and ‘made’ were blurred.” 

The architects used hard Jodhpur sandstone, hewn from a quarry five hours’ drive away. The quarry foreman predominantly deployed an age-old stone-splitting technique, using traditional tools along with more commonly used saw extraction, which, when used alone, results in the loss of natural stone’s desirable textures. The warm, neutral-toned sandstone is left exposed throughout the interior to unifying effect. 

Casa Ward in Italy has been designed to resist earth tremors by Carl Fredrik Svenstedt Architecture (Credit: Dan Glasser)

3. Casa Ward Sarnano, Italy

This holiday home owned by a Swedish couple epitomises the current trend for architects reusing existing materials found on site. Drastic circumstances resulted in providing the raw materials for Casa Ward, however: a farmhouse overlooking the Sibillini mountains near Sarnano, a village east of Perugia, was almost reduced to rubble by an earthquake in 2016.

The new house, which was highly commended in the house and villa category, was designed by Paris-based architect Carl Fredrik Svenstedt and comprises a concrete frame clad with these stone remnants. The reclaimed, rough-hued stone used for the new house channels the rugged character of the original farmhouse’s walls. This is used in the interior, too, further blurring the boundaries between inside and out.

The new building’s basic form is modelled on an archetypal house with a pitched roof. In an unorthodox twist, this appears to have been sliced, its segments separated and arranged in a linear sequence, each section echoing the others. The design is built to resist future tremors and faces rolling hills. Its connection between indoors and out is reinforced by incorporating enormous picture windows framing picturesque vistas. Between each section of the house are terraces and an infinity pool reflecting the sky. 

The vaulted ceiling is a main feature of the Three Spring Residential Gallery by KGA Architecture (Credit: Peter Bennets)

4. Three Spring Residential Gallery, Bunurong Land, Australia

This family residence near Melbourne, designed by local architects KGA Architecture, stands on a farm in open countryside. By contrast, the interior houses an art collection of work by Australian artists.

“We differentiated the family from the art-filled areas by making the former more formal and the latter more intimate,” says its lead architect Kristin Green. This extravagantly organic, asymmetric building has a correspondingly byzantine layout, its two distinct areas indirectly connected by oblique corridors instead of conventional doorways.

A spectacular double-height library is lined at ground-floor level with bookshelves. Tall arched windows look on to a garden with enormous, ornamental pools. The room has an ornate floor overlooked by a semi-circular mezzanine supported by wooden columns. Above this is a fluted plaster ceiling crowned by a skylight. A grand dining room with a vaulted ceiling and glass table seating 30 feels intimate and convivial. The main area for the family is an inward-looking, cosy living room with a sunken seating area. A warm, earthy palette – mainly ochre, terracotta and aubergine – in the interior was chosen to echo the surrounding landscape’s natural colours.

Studio AG’s geometric LRM House in São Paulo is light-filled with an open-plan living area (Credit: Fran Parente)

5. LRM House, São Paulo, Brazil

This rectangular, crisply geometric house occupies a long, narrow site sandwiched, on its longer sides, by buildings immediately adjacent to it. The main goal of its architects, São Paulo-based Studio AG, was to create a sense of more space, which was achieved mainly by installing an abundance of glazing and connecting the house to a garden. More space was added by incorporating two extra storeys.

The long open-plan ground floor contains a kitchen, living room and dining room area that leads to the garden. This indoor space is bordered by a double-height volume with a textured wall rising to meet windows that run along the entire wall. At the top of this space is a skylight that brings yet more daylight indoors. More diffuse natural light enters the adjacent, lower-ceilinged living area.

A lawn beyond the dining room leads to a covered area for alfresco dining. A boxy upper storey contains bedrooms. Frosted floor-to-ceiling windows allow privacy and provide natural ventilation, and a floor above this houses an office, gym, sauna and open-air swimming pool.

Mawhitipana House in New Zealand designed by MacKay Curtis brings the inhabitants into close contact with nature (Credit: Simon Wilson)

6. Mawhitipana House, Waiheke Island, New Zealand

The brief the owners of this holiday home gave to the house’s architects, Wellington-based MacKay Curtis, was to bring them into close contact with nature. They wanted outdoor areas that catch the sun where they could spend more time outside than in. A long, timber outdoor deck spans the narrow site and sits between mature Pōhutukawa trees without disturbing their roots. Perched high on a steep slope, the largely wood-clad house has sweeping views over Mawhitipana Bay.

The two-storey building is divided into two structures. The lower level, enclosed with glass, houses a living room, dining area and kitchen. Steel columns support the upper, cedar-clad storey. The timber window shutters with gaps allow natural ventilation and also the sound of the waves on the beach below to permeate the interior. The upper storey accommodates a bedroom, bathroom, a room with bunk beds, a study, a bathroom and laundry room.

The house’s modest footprint makes a minimal impact on the environment. “The house measures 133sq-m (1431sq-ft) overall,” says Jo MacKay, co-founder of MacKay Curtis. “This is slightly smaller than a typical detached villa in New Zealand, which measures closer to 160sq-m (1722sq-ft) to 200sq-m (2153sq-ft).”

Natural materials are used throughout Orla Apartment in Rio, designed by Studio Arthur Casas (Credit: Fran Parente)

7. Orla Apartment, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

A stunning panoramic view of the ocean from this apartment overlooking Ipanema Beach is one of its main attractions. It was designed for a couple with two young children, and the aim of São Paulo-based architects Studio Arthur Casas was to accommodate both a space for the family to relax in and a quiet, private home office. The office is in the main bedroom but can be concealed by a sliding panel.

An extensive use of natural materials throughout the house – including stone flooring in the living room and wood lining walls – creates a soothing environment. The streamlined kitchen, which also has ocean-facing views, connects to the living room. Sandy tones, chosen for everything from upholstery to ceramics, contribute to creating a restful atmosphere. When framing views of the great outdoors, these quiet colours help to draw the eye outside.

The low-lying, horizontal Flag House by Studio MK27 blends with its surroundings in Whistler (Credit: Fernando Guerra)

8. Flag House, Whistler, Canada

Established Brazilian practice Studio MK27 designed Flag House, a holiday house in Whistler, north of Vancouver. Its clients had seen some MK27 projects in Brazil and commissioned the studio to design their house. The practice, founded by Marcio Kogan in the 1970s, is normally known for its modernist villas suited to a tropical climate. But, undeterred, the architects applied one of the key principles of their practice to this new entirely different setting, namely establishing a strong connection between indoors and out. What’s more, the relatively low-lying, horizontal house blends sympathetically with its setting.

Flag House consists of two boxy forms, one resting on the other. The larger one, a glass-fronted living space, is supported by a dark wood-clad base containing the entrance and a guest bedroom. The upper floor is cantilevered and seems to hover above the plinth-like lower box.

The World Architecture Festival 2024 takes place in Singapore later this year

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