American Institute of Architects reveals the best homes of 2022

From an ‘extraordinary’ Texas residence to a stunning rainforest-canopy ‘surfers’ hut’: The best-designed homes of 2022 revealed by the American Institute of Architects

  • These are winners in the AIA’s 2022 Housing Awards, which showcase ‘excellent design in the 21st century’
  • Prizes were awarded across several categories, including residential design and affordable housing 
  • Winners include a home that generates all the water it needs from collected rainwater

They say that home is where the heart is, but this list of incredible houses could easily steal your affection. 

The judges of the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) 2022 Housing Awards have revealed their pick of the best-designed homes created by U.S-licensed architects – and they’re totally stunning. Now in its 22nd year, the awards seek to showcase ‘excellent design in the 21st century’ across different categories, including residential design and affordable housing. 

The award winners range from a luxurious surf-lover’s treehouse in Costa Rica to a steel-clad Colorado home with views of the Rocky Mountains. Scroll down to see our pick of the homes that impressed the judges the most…

Highland Park Residence in Dallas County, Texas, by Alterstudio Architecture  – Winner in the One and Two Family Custom Residences category  

Highland Park Residence (pictured) ‘eschews exterior grandeur for an extraordinary interior environment’, says the AIA

Inside, the design combines raw and refined finishes, ‘such as mill-finished steel that abuts Indiana limestone panels and handmade tiles from Mexico alongside elegant walnut cabinetry’, the AIA notes

This house ‘eschews exterior grandeur for an extraordinary interior environment’, said the AIA. 

Inside, the design combines raw and refined finishes, ‘such as mill-finished steel that abuts Indiana limestone panels and handmade tiles from Mexico alongside elegant walnut cabinetry’. 

Judges praised the home, which was designed to cater for a family with three young children and a large collection of contemporary art, for being ‘stately in a refreshing way’. ‘The design feels livable and intimate despite its size,’ they remarked. 

‘This is a beautifully done house,’ another jury member added.  

Rio House in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, by Olson Kundig – Winner in the One and Two Family Custom Residences category 

According to the AIA, this stunning property in Brazil was designed to make the most of the surrounding nature

Overall, the jury was bowled over by this ‘masterfully designed’ home, which brings together ‘the elegance of Mid-Century Modernism’ with ‘architecture as a machine’

‘Rio House is effectively a steel and glass box that rises into the rainforest canopy atop two concrete piers,’ said the AIA of this jungle hideaway in Brazil. 

According to the AIA, the house was designed to make the most of the surrounding nature, with its raised position intended to ‘immerse the home’s occupants in the site’s jucara palm and Cariniana trees’. 

The panel loved that the interior was shaped using traditional Brazilian construction techniques, such as board-formed concrete site walls and interior walls of colourful plaster over terracotta.

Overall, the jury was bowled over by this ‘masterfully designed’ home, which brings together ‘the elegance of Mid-Century Modernism’ with ‘architecture as a machine’.  

Costa Rica Treehouse in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, by Olson Kundig – Winner in the One and Two Family Custom Residences category 

The Costa Rica Treehouse (pictured above), which acts as an ‘open-air surfers’ hut’, offers sweeping views of the surf at nearby Playa Hermosa beach

Judges adored this ‘beautiful lantern in the jungle’, adding: ‘It touches the earth lightly and with respect. A masterfully simple home that elevates shelter to a poetic level’

Nestled in the jungle of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, this dwelling – home to a family with two young children – ‘was envisioned as an open-air surfer’s hut’.

Built using entirely locally sourced materials, the house was inspired by the family’s former temporary home: a tent that sat on a small wooden platform. The treehouse is intended to be a ‘simple but more permanent fixture’, featuring a top floor that stands above the tree canopy, offering the family sweeping views of the surf at nearby Playa Hermosa beach, said the AIA. 

Judges adored this ‘beautiful lantern in the jungle’, adding: ‘It touches the earth lightly and with respect. A masterfully simple home that elevates shelter to a poetic level.’  

The Aya in Washington, D.C. by Studio Twenty Seven Architecture and Leo A Daly – Winner in the Excellence in Affordable Housing category 

Pictured is The Aya, an affordable housing project that aims to help residents ‘avoid any period of homelessness’

According to the AIA, this affordable housing project in Washington DC provides short-term housing for up to 50 families that need emergency shelter. Named The Aya, it aims to help residents ‘avoid any period of homelessness’, the judges said. 

The structure, which predominantly serves young mothers with small children, features space for a nonprofit health centre to serve the surrounding community – something that is ‘much needed as Washington’s homeless population grows’, noted the AIA.  

It added: ‘It’s hard to believe emergency housing could be so well done. This design conveys respect for the community and those it serves. A lively composition of form with thoughtfully organised spaces and playful use of colour without excess.’

Rain Harvest Home in Temascaltepec, Mexico, by Robert Hutchison Architecture and Javier Sanchez – Winner in the One and Two Family Custom Residences category 

All three roofs of the Rain Harvest Home collect rainwater and channel it into a reservoir for on-site treatment and storage

Judges described the dwelling as a ‘laboratory for water conservation’, adding: ‘Unpretentious of its place and thoughtfully arranged, the entirety of the composition works toward conservation and ecological engagement’

All three roofs of this tripartite [made up of three parts] mountainside home collect rainwater, and channel it into a reservoir for on-site treatment and storage. The collected water accounts for 100 per cent of the home’s year-round water requirements, said the AIA. 

Some of it is used in the home’s circular, open-air bathhouse. At 250 square feet (23 sq m), it contains a hot bath, sauna, steam shower, and washroom that all encircle a cold plunge pool that opens to the sky, the AIA revealed.

Judges described the dwelling as a ‘laboratory for water conservation’, adding: ‘Unpretentious of its place and thoughtfully arranged, the entirety of the composition works toward conservation and ecological engagement.’ 

Goatbarn Lane in Boulder, Colorado, by Renee del Gaudio Architecture – Winner in the One and Two Family Custom Residences category 

The architect built this steel-clad home (pictured) for his father, who was, said the AIA, looking to live ‘live simply and respectfully amid Colorado’s unique mountain landscape’

The 1,860 square ft (172 square m) abode is a ‘simple yet functional design’ the AIA said

Describing the home, the judges said: ‘It’s a beautiful story of a parent’s home, thoughtfully composed with timeless materials and intimate spaces. The design responds to the site and its inhabitant with modesty and grace’

The architect built this steel-clad home for his father, who was, said the AIA, looking to live ‘live simply and respectfully amid Colorado’s unique mountain landscape’.

The 1,860 square ft (172 square m) abode is a ‘simple yet functional design’, and boasts a viewing platform that cantilevers over the first floor toward the snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains. 

The judges said: ‘It’s a beautiful story of a parent’s home, thoughtfully composed with timeless materials and intimate spaces. The design responds to the site and its inhabitant with modesty and grace.’

Divine House in Eugene, Oregon, by Landry Smith Architect – Winner in the One and Two Family Custom Residences category 

Divine House (pictured), built by a small team of local carpenters, shows a ‘commitment to craft and materiality’

Overlooking Oregon’s McKenzie River, the Divine House was built over a year by a small team of local carpenters with only the most basic elemental materials, revealed the AIA. 

Inside, it’s clad in plain-sawn white oak boards finished with simple hard-wax oil, we’re told.  

The ‘low-tech’, compact home wowed the judges, who commented: ‘This design exemplifies the ambition of a simple and modestly scaled home elevated to notable levels of design by a commitment to craft and materiality.’ 

West Campus Residence in Austin, Texas, by Alterstudio Architecture, LLP and Mell Lawrence Architects – Winner in the One and Two Family Custom Residences category 

The judges called this former student rental ‘a model for living comfortably with less while still championing quality and elegance’

Here an old student rental has been transformed into a ‘compact and efficient space’. 

According to the AIA, the ground floor is open, but divided by different architectural elements, while upstairs, each member of the family of five has their own room. 

The front porch takes advantage of its position beneath the tree canopy, remarked the AIA, which says that ‘its tempered daylit environment [is] an important respite from the often-oppressive Texas sun’. 

‘This project is a refreshing departure from most over-scaled homes in this category,’ noted the jury. ‘It is a model for living comfortably with less while still championing quality and elegance.’  

Ohringer Arts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by Rothschild Doyno Collaborative – Winner in the Excellence in Affordable Housing category  

‘This is a transformative project for the neighbourhood and a spectacular demonstration of design and urban planning,’ the jury noted of Ohringer Arts, pictured above

Set in a disused furniture department store dating back to 1941, this affordable housing-meets-arts-hub preserves an important piece of Pennsylvania’s industrial heyday, according to the AIA.

The building’s 40ft- (12m-) wide furniture showrooms have been transformed into apartment units, allowing artists to live and work on-site, says the architectural association.

‘This is a transformative project for the neighborhood and a spectacular demonstration of design and urban planning,’ the jury noted. ‘The design team showed great respect for the building. It is a cheerful and witty project.’

For more information, visit www.aia.org

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