If 6 ancient houses were renovated for the 21st century

Human homes are comfortable, organized places in the 21st century – but they’re not terribly exciting. Over the centuries, people have tried out a lot of different architectural styles as our technology has evolved. But what if we were to return to some of those earlier styles and update them with today’s tools and know-how?

We’ve created a new series of CG renders renovating six bygone homes for the 21st century using current (and future) home design trends. Which one would you like to see on the market?

Mudbrick houses renovated (Ancient Egypt)

Three thousand years ago, most Egyptian people lived in houses made of mudbrick. In fact, the word for a mudbrick, ‘adobe’, comes from the ancient Egyptian word, “dbe.” There was very little wood available in ancient Egypt, but when the Nile flooded, it was practical to make bricks from the resultant mud combined with straw. Entire families would occupy a single room, although in hot weather they might sleep on the roof.


The narrow windows of the original buildings were designed to keep the mudbrick houses cool. Our updated version features prism-like extensions made of clean-cut limestone, which is ideal for blocking heat from the outside. Our architects wanted to create a visual clash by placing futuristic forms atop historic ruins – the slit windows and slanted roofs add that dynamic, modern look.

Pueblo houses renovated (United States)

Traditional pueblo houses were constructed from adobe bricks or limestone blocks. They had as many as five storeys, each set back from the floor below to create a pyramid-type shape. The walls were very thick and, with multiple families in each building, there wasn’t much space.


Our architects have created more room to live while maintaining the social feel of the pueblos. New semi-open terraces feature glazed prisms for social gatherings, offering epic ‘observatory deck’ views over the plains of America’s south-west. The prisms are augmented with photovoltaic glass panels on the facades so that these modernized homes can run on renewable energy.

Siheyuan compounds renovated (China)

Chinese Siheyuan date back to the Western Zhou Period (1045–770 BC). A typical siheyuan is symmetrical and features four buildings around a quadrangular courtyard. These home complexes were built according to strict height, design, colour, and decoration restrictions, depending on the status of the owner.


As such, our updated siheyuan boasts an overdue cosmetic makeover. New columns and facades feature angular surfaces, creating a clean-cut, stoic, yet kinetic vibe. The beautiful original roofs have been kept mostly intact, but the addition of solar panels adds a welcome touch of sustainability. Finally, the courtyard has been treated to new grass and pebble areas useful for meditation and play.

Turf houses renovated (Iceland)

An Icelandic turf house consists of a wooden frame stuffed with blocks of turf (grass still embedded in the earth) on a stone foundation. Only the front around the doorway is bared. The entrance leads to a big hall (sometimes via an antechamber) with a firepit in the middle.


Our renovated turf house complex plays with the ‘badly hidden’ appearance of traditional turf houses, which seem to sink back into the landscape. The steel-frame dome looks partly natural yet completely alien. Panels of turf and timber alternate with glass windows, using reflections to create an improbable, angular mound of grass, wood, and… clouds! In a subtler touch, the wooden planks that form the facades have been rearranged at decorative angles.

Incan houses renovated (Peru)

Incan architecture is renowned for precise and sophisticated use of stone blocks. However, more humble Incan homes would often be built from unworked field stones or even adobe bricks. Roofs were sloped and usually made of thatched grass or reeds on a wood or cane frame.


The settlement we chose to renovate boasts a particularly exhilarating view. We wanted to amplify the strangeness of the arrangement and create more space. We did so by designing wedge-shaped volumes of black concrete and glass that seem like prisms penetrating the rooves. The centrepiece is an infinity pool suspended from the top property, creating an unparalleled mountain view experience.

Ancient Roman villa (Italy)

Villa architecture in ancient Rome was very diverse in design. But as a general rule an entrance door in the middle of the façade would open up into a corridor leading to a courtyard. This would be the heart of life in the Roman home. Corinthian style columns or pilasters hung with retractable doors separated the courtyard from the surrounding rooms.


How do you extend an enclosed courtyard? We’ve dug down to create a second level. An island hot tub and lawn add recreational options. They are reached by a glass bridge that allows light to reach the extra guest rooms around the new, lower courtyard. Solar brick roofs power the complex, while a greenhouse on top provides homegrown fruits and vegetables for the residents.

Most of us live in conventional modern homes built in the past couple of centuries. But our cultures have a rich architectural heritage packed with ideas that remain both charming and practical today. Combining the romance of ancient houses with what is possible today is an excellent way to imagine better futures where we can live comfortably and sustainably.

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Fercility (2019). Siheyuan — Chinese Courtyards. chinahighlights.com

Holloway, A. (2014). The incredible rock houses and underground cities of Cappadocia. ancient-origins.net

McDowall, C. (2014). An Ancient Roman Villa. thecultureconcept.com

Moerland, M. (2018). Everything You Want To Know About Icelandic Turf Houses. whatson.is

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National Geographic. (2018). Escape to Turkey’s Otherworldly Landscape. nationalgeographic.com

Özbay, A. (2018). Uncovering Cappadocia, Turkey’s Ancient Region With Houses Carved In Stone. gojourny.com

Pariona, A. (2019). 15 Traditional Housing Types From Around The World. worldatlas.com

Salem Media. (2019). Ancient Egyptian Houses: Domiciles From Pharaohs to Farmers. historyonthenet.com

Tiny House Blog. (2019). The Cave Houses of Cappadocia. tinyhouseblog.com

Tratsiakovich, D. (2018). Transformation of Siheyuan during 20-21st Centuries and Its Sustainability in the Future. semanticscholar.org



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