A current project of ours is situated on a hillside in Bellevue Washington -about half the property is located on a steep slope and the other half is on a flat plateau at the top of the slope. The site and its slope are challenging, no doubt, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We think that the existing constraints, stipulations and conditions of a site are actually a big part of what makes design good. As part of the architectural design process, it’s our job to interpret and translate the existing conditions into elements that make the design extraordinary. To us, this is not a matter of turning lemons into lemonade –the lemonade is already there. Rather, it’s the architect’s job to use the site constraints in a beautiful way. If done correctly, the project will actually be better, more enjoyable and more inspiring because of the site constraints. It is precisely the challenges of the site that allow for great architecture to occur. So in this spirit, we’ve pulled together 10 of our favorite projects that shine simply because of their site constraints and how the architects interpreted them. These projects wouldn’t be nearly as successful without their difficult conditions. Enjoy and let us know of your faves…

1. Public swimming-pools in Leça da Palmeira Portugal by Alvaro Siza
Strategically placed concrete walls are used in conjunction with natural seaside rock formations to contain several heated pools. The new insertions supplement the existing rocks without getting in the way of their natural beauty.

[Photos by Anna Emilio and Paulo Lopes]

2. Haarlemmerbuurt Social Housing in Amsterdam by Claus en Kaan Architecten
Fitting into an extremely narrow lot, the structure is nestled between two existing buildings. The new work asserts itself as an architecture of modern materials in the current era and at the same time doesn’t get in the way of the adjacent traditional forms.

[via False Flat]

3. Falling Water House in Mill Run, Pennsylvania by Frank Lloyd Wright
A perfect example of harmony between built-form and site; the structure is derived from natural proportions and respects the landscape by carefully hovering above the waterfalls.

4. Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona Arizona by Marguerite Brunswig Staude
A structure so well integrated with the rock formations that the landscape would seem incomplete without it.

5. Albert Frey House II in Palm Springs by Albert Frey
The delicate structure of the house is carefully set onto the site, keeping large boulders perfectly intact and integrating their form and texture into the interiors.

[Photos by Julius Schulman]

6. Gugalun House in Grisons Canton Switzerland by Peter Zumthor
An existing weathered chalet and a steep alpine slope provide strict parameters for the new wedge insertion that supplements the living space and provides unity with the site.

7. Baião Weekend House in Baião Portugal by Eduardo Souto Moura
It would seem as though this modern dwelling has always been among the stepped rock hillside –the stone ledge simply opens up to reveal a simple glass façade.

[Photo by Dwell]

8. Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway
Just 600 miles from the North Pole, the seed vault is exposed to some of the harshest conditions on the planet. The gateway to the seed vault is both exceptionally durable and a graceful beacon at the same time.

9. Renzo Piano Office in Punta Nave Italy by Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Following the hillside, the structure offers views, daylight and inspiring interior relationships at each level. The structure has such a close relationship to the land that even the vegetation seems to continue on through the building.

[Photo via twistedsifter]

10. Temppeliaukio Kirkko (Rock Church), in Helsinki Finland by Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen
There is a mastery of architecture in knowing when not to do something. The genius of the Rock Church design is that the existing depression within a rock mound was left intact. The church lid was carefully placed on top allowing the site and structure blend seamlessly.

Cheers and don’t fear the constraints…