Saturday, May 18

Modern Contemporary Means Different Things in Different Places

Modern bathroom with large bay window and view of sea


What does modern contemporary home design mean to you? Maybe the thought of modern contemporary evokes images of a home inspired by something Frank Lloyd Wright would have designed 50 years ago. Or perhaps it is something you might find in downtown Tokyo.

Whether it’s a Sparano + Mooney contemporary ski lodge in Park City, Utah or a multi-million-dollar mansion on Florida’s Gulf Coast, modern contemporary means different things in different places. And when those places are completely separate countries, the differences can be astounding.

  • A Pavilion House in Malaysia

The design website recently published a piece about a fantastic home in Malaysia known as House68. The home was built for a large family who wanted distinct areas that separated sleeping space from living space. The result is a property with four unique pavilions and plenty of outdoor space between them.

What makes this home contemporary? A lot. First and foremost is the design of each of the pavilions. Architects focused on open spaces, clean lines, and making the most of what the surrounding environment had to offer.

For example, one of the reasons for choosing the pavilion design is to deal with Malaysia’s heat and humidity. Four individual pavilions designed to accommodate air flow between them makes it easier to stay cool without the need for mechanical HVAC. In that sense, House68 is remarkably similar to U.S. homes built with passive design in mind.

Another exciting trait of House68 is all of the local materials used to build it. Designers chose bamboo, natural stone, and other materials that allow the four pavilions to blend in with its surroundings almost seamlessly.

  • Respecting the Malaysian Culture

A key component to contemporary home design is paying attention to current cultural trends. In Malaysia, a big part of the culture is outdoor living. Thus, there is plenty of open outdoor space in the midst of the 4-pavilion layout, space with plenty of shade that invites family gatherings at all times of the day and evening.

The home was also designed with an eye on maximizing natural light. Plenty of floor-to-ceiling windows dominate each of the four pavilions. However, the judicious use of bamboo breaks up the sunlight to keep the house from overheating during the day. It really is a fascinating concept to take in, visually speaking.

  • Malaysia Is Not Utah

You would not be surprised to learn that House68 doesn’t look anything like a Sparano + Mooney contemporary design in Park City. This is because Malaysia is not Utah. Yet homes in both locales are designed with modern contemporary features. Homes in both locales can look and feel completely different and still be modern contemporary.

That’s the beauty of contemporary design. It is so different from any other forms of architecture. By contrast, Victorian style architecture is pretty standard no matter where in the world you find it. Similarly, the architectural designs of the colonial era are found all over the world. And they all look pretty much the same.

Not so with contemporary design. Contemporary design is influenced by what people perceive and prefer in the here and now. Individual preferences in Malaysia are one thing; individual preferences in Utah are something completely different. Likewise, contemporary design has its own unique flair in Tokyo, Paris, Sydney, and Rio de Janeiro.

It is enough to cause one to wonder what architects will think of 21st-century design 500 to 1,000 years from now. Will the modern design concept even still exist then, or will period architecture make a comeback? It’s hard to say. But it is all good.