• The cantilevered Balancing Barn, by the Dutch firm MVRDV.

    Credit: Courtesy Living Architecture

    The cantilevered Balancing Barn, by the Dutch firm MVRDV.

The Landmark Trust has long made it possible for devotees of Britain's traditional architecture to rent historic homes by the week. Soon the public will have a similar opportunity to experience top-flight contemporary homes. Living Architecture, a nonprofit founded by writer and philosopher Alain de Botton, has commissioned five houses of “outstanding architectural merit,” which will be built on sites around England and offered for vacation rental as early as spring 2010.

“We see it as a portfolio of houses,” says Living Architecture director Mark Robinson—“a trust, if you will.” The company conducted a lengthy search for suitable building sites and engaged prominent architects, such as Swiss Pritzker Prize winner Peter Zumthor, and rising-star firms, among them NORD in Glasgow, Scotland, and MVRDV of Rotterdam, Netherlands. Because there was no single client, Robinson says, “the brief for the architects was interesting. It asked them to curate, as well as create, a building.” But while the project has generated considerable interest in the design community, he adds, “we're not building for some architectural elite. We want the man on the street, who has not stayed in a contemporary house.”

  • Shingle House, by NORD of Scotland, is among five new contemporary houses that will be available for weekly rentals. If the program succeeds, more will follow.

    Credit: Courtesy Living Architecture

    Shingle House, by NORD of Scotland, is among five new contemporary houses that will be available for weekly rentals. If the program succeeds, more will follow.

Four of the houses are under construction and scheduled for completion in 2010, with the fifth to follow in 2011. Because donors funded land acquisition and construction, “any income will go to maintain the houses and cover operating expenses,” Robinson says. If the program proves successful, he adds, Living Architecture plans to expand its collection, “hopefully to add one house a year.” For more information, visit www.living-architecture.co.uk.