written by:
January 6, 2015
So-called starchitecture—and the backlash against it—may be the talk of the town in design circles, but ask a designer for his or her three favorite buildings and you'll get some surprisingly under-the-radar answers. Here, a look at some treasured buildings across the world.
Villa le Lac by Le Corbusier in Switzerland

Villa le Lac by Le Corbusier in Corseaux, Switzerland

"I drove down to Corseaux, in Vevey, to see a very small house: Le Corbusier's Petite Maison Coseaux (also called Villa le Lac). The house was built for his mother back in 1924. I had looked at the website, which stated it would be open for visitors, but when I arrived it was closed for construction. Just before getting into the car and returning to the hotel, I changed my mind and jumped the garden wall. Moments later I found myself all alone in this architectural curiosity."

"The house is 64 square meters; it's a simple rectangular concrete structure with a garden terrace, open floor plan, and large windows. But even though it's small, Le Corbusier managed to fit a living room, a bedroom, powder room, small salon that could be converted to a bedroom for guests, vestibule, bathroom, kitchen, and closet into this house. It's the first example of modern architecture by Le Corbusier in Switzerland. The stroke of genius was a wall that he built in front of the lake obstructing the view. He designed a window in the wall, with a table and two benches inside the garden, so his mother could sit and watch the lake while being protected from the sun and wind. Sitting in front of the same window, I imagined what it might have been like, being here almost 90 years ago the day they finished construction. Did mother and son have a cup of the here? Feeling slightly guilty that I was trespassing—but still with a grin on my face—I sat there for a couple of hours in my own architecture history lesson surrounded by the Rhone valley and the Alps in Corseaux and the gorgeous view of the lake. I truly had a magic moment." —Designer Søren Rose, who was featured in Dwell's issue on gamechangers in design, The Now 99

Courtesy of 
Olivier Martin-Gambier for Fondation Le Corbusier/ ADAGP
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Sanctuary of Mary Queen of Peace Church by Gottfried Böhm in Neviges, Germany

"I visited the Sanctuary of Mary Queen of Peace Church for the first time during a trip that Kevin Hui [Director at 4site Architecture] and I called 'archi-marathon.' I had never heard of Böhm when Kevin brought me to the church. It was staggering to see a building emerge from the hillside looming as a backdrop to the small town. The vast dark interiors (so dark that you had to wait for your eyes to adjust before venturing too deep) was unexpectedly moving. The layering both vertically and horizontally was wonderfully sophisticated, while the juxtaposition of broad open areas and small contemplative spaces described a place tailored to diverse community needs. Well-executed Brutalism is an inclusive form of humanism." —Architect Andrew Maynard, who toured Dwell around his hometown of Melbourne for a 2011 issue.

Originally appeared in Three Buildings: Andrew Maynard
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Erdman Dormitory at Bryn Mawr College, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, by Louis Kahn

"Byrn Mawr is a womens' college but I managed to spend a lot of time there when I was attending Haverford right down the road. Kahn's Erdman dormitory is a concrete castle with a simple plan made of three rotated cubes. You enter the building on a corner of the middle instead of along a flat section of wall. That simple move completely rewires the experience of the building inside. The rooms are on the periphery and there is a large open space at the middle of each cube. Its a powerful building made more so by relying on natural light, concrete, and simple geometric forms." —Architect Noah Walker, who designed a Hollywood bachelor pad featured in Dwell's March 2012 issue.

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The Swiss Embassy Residence in Washington, DC. Photo by William Lebovich.

The Residence at the Swiss Embassy in Washington, DC, USA by Steven Holl in collaboration with Rüssli Architekten

"As a Swiss national, I am particularly proud that the Swiss Embassy in the nation's capital is a masterful example of architecture, combining private life and official reception spaces seamlessly.  The overlapping spaces unite beautifully, allowing the visitor to see diagonally through the building to the terrace and the Washington Monument.  Love that the charcoal color concrete and glass planks were inspired by black rocks and white snow of Swiss Alps!  Also it's impressive that Steven Holl Architects created the building according to Minergie Standards, [a comparable system to the US Council for Green Building's LEED standards] to keep energy consumption as low as possible-there's a green roof for water retention, external sunshades that are digitally controlled to respond to heat/solar gain on inside, solar use on the south side, and more!   I'm proud to be the emcee at this year's "Annual Soiree Suisse" on September 23rd where I'll enjoy seeing the spaces populated and celebrated!" —Caroline Baumann, director of the Cooper Hewitt Museum. Read about more of her favorite things from Dwell's latest special issue here.

Originally appeared in Caroline Baumann
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Baião weekend house (Baião, Portugal) by Eduardo Souto de Moura

"Eduardo Souto de Moura's weekend house in the remote northern town of Baião, Portugal. We were introduced to this project early in our education and spent part of our honeymoon there. The region is known for its stone-terraced hillsides and port wine vineyards. The architect inserted a small house directly within a terrace adjacent to the stone ruin of an old house. The terrace appears to peel apart, revealing a discreet modern insertion within the earth itself, its glass sliding doors reflecting the river valley beyond. Within the house the spaces have been kept small and spare, focusing all attention to the framed view of the Bestança River joining the Douro River on its way to the Atlantic Ocean. The project is a very elegant and unassuming insertion to the landscape." —atelier KS, two San Francisco architects who worked for Dwell favorites Craig Steely and Cary Bernstein, and who completed a Sunset District renovation in 2010.

Originally appeared in atelier KS
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Rudolph Tegners Museum by Rudolph Tegners in Dronningmølle, Denmark

"The Rudolph Tegners Museum is an hour north of Copenhagen. It's a fabulous space and the surroundings are like entering a fairy tale. When you drive into the property of this wonderful little museum dedicated to showing the works of sculptor and artist Rudolph Tegners, you are surrounded by hills of heather, camel grass, and mysterious trees—the backdrop is very beautiful, a typical Danish landscape with fields of corn and flowers. The Museum was built by Rudolph back in 1938. He was responsible for both the functionality and the aesthetics of the building. The museum is one of the early Danish buildings made largely from concrete. The main structure has 36-foot-tall ceilings and is lit from windows in the ceiling so visitors are not distracted by the immaculate nature surrounding this magical place. As a last note: Rudolph Tegners is actually buried in an oak coffin beneath the floor of the central hall. His wife Elna Tegners was burned after her death and the urn is hidden inside the Apollo statue above Rudolph's grave." —Designer Søren Rose

Originally appeared in Soren Rose
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Anahuacalli Museum in Mexico City

Anahuacalli Museum in Mexico City by Diego Rivera, Ruth Rivera, Heriberto Pagelson and Juan O'Gorman

"This is an amazing, huge edifice in suburban Mexico City that Rivera built to house both his collection of Mayan and Zapotec artifacts as well as his studio (on the upper levels). It's a load-bearing black lava rock thing—a real engineering museum in its construction!— that I thought at first was inspired by the Shogun legacy in Japan. But after going to Oaxaca and Monte Alban I realized it is deeply Zapotec. It has gargoyles and a very strong symbolic and political presence. It was Rivera's response to and evidence of his withdrawal from imported European modernism (e.g the moderne almost Hejdukian his-and-hers studio building in Mexico City that most people know)." —Architect Barbara Bestor, whose Silver Lake renovation we documented in Dwell.

Originally appeared in Architect Barbara Bestor
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The Sea Ranch Chapel by Hubbell and Hubbell

Sea Ranch Chapel by Hubbell & Hubbell Architects

"A perfect blend of late-school organic architecture principles and human craft without computer algorithms. It's a clear influence from Gaudiesque thinking at a modest contemporaneous scale." —Mitchell Joachim, a designer who's appeared at Dwell on Design and in the pages of Dwell to talk about the connection between biology and architecture.

Originally appeared in Mitchell Joachim's Foundational Buildings
8 / 8
Villa le Lac by Le Corbusier in Switzerland

Villa le Lac by Le Corbusier in Corseaux, Switzerland

"I drove down to Corseaux, in Vevey, to see a very small house: Le Corbusier's Petite Maison Coseaux (also called Villa le Lac). The house was built for his mother back in 1924. I had looked at the website, which stated it would be open for visitors, but when I arrived it was closed for construction. Just before getting into the car and returning to the hotel, I changed my mind and jumped the garden wall. Moments later I found myself all alone in this architectural curiosity."

"The house is 64 square meters; it's a simple rectangular concrete structure with a garden terrace, open floor plan, and large windows. But even though it's small, Le Corbusier managed to fit a living room, a bedroom, powder room, small salon that could be converted to a bedroom for guests, vestibule, bathroom, kitchen, and closet into this house. It's the first example of modern architecture by Le Corbusier in Switzerland. The stroke of genius was a wall that he built in front of the lake obstructing the view. He designed a window in the wall, with a table and two benches inside the garden, so his mother could sit and watch the lake while being protected from the sun and wind. Sitting in front of the same window, I imagined what it might have been like, being here almost 90 years ago the day they finished construction. Did mother and son have a cup of the here? Feeling slightly guilty that I was trespassing—but still with a grin on my face—I sat there for a couple of hours in my own architecture history lesson surrounded by the Rhone valley and the Alps in Corseaux and the gorgeous view of the lake. I truly had a magic moment." —Designer Søren Rose, who was featured in Dwell's issue on gamechangers in design, The Now 99

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