Living on the Edge: Cantilevered Architecture

Sarah C
Written by Sarah C

If you follow modern design, chances are you have heard the word “cantilever” to describe revolutionary shapes and daring architectural feats. In engineering terms, a cantilever roughly describes a standard beam that is only supported at one end, as opposed to more traditional architecture in which horizontal elements are fully supported by vertical elements at each end. Sounds crazy, no?

Photography by Paul Warchol. Image via

Modern cantilevering was a structural method championed in the 19th century, predominantly with the construction of long-distance bridges. With the advent of modern architectural styles in the 20th century, cantilevers were translated to family residences, transforming homes from dark, cramped spaces, into open-plan, modernist masterpieces.

Fast-forward to 2017, and it’s difficult to find a modern building without the use of cantilevers. Not only are they solution based (e.g. able to create more space without the need for vertical obstructions or diversifying the exterior facade), cantilevers are extremely cool-looking additions to a home’s architecture.

Overarching Benefits

Photography by Roy Engelbrecht. Image via

With the flexibility to create structurally sound buildings that at first glance seem to go against the laws of physics, cantilevered architecture was a match made in heaven for the modernist movement. Cantilevers expanded (literally) the possibilities of form, which as we know, is the essence of modern design that emerged in the 20th century.

Photography is by David Frutos/BISimages. Image via

Architecturally speaking, this led to an explosion of creativity when designing the external components of a building. One of these ways was the ability to incorporate more glass and open steel frames in architecture. This effectively improved the relationship between the indoors and outdoors, and therefore the inhabitants with their environment. Today, that is considered the epitome of modern architecture.

Multidisciplinary Applications

Photography by Edmund Sumner. Image via

Cantilevered architecture can be applied to a lot more than buildings. Take this infinity pool, for example. It follows the same principle of being anchored to one vertical element, but hangs perfectly in balance at a far distance.

…It can even be applied to fun (and stable) dining room seating.


As visually intriguing as cantilevered architecture is, there is also a method to its madness. By utilizing cantilevers in existing architecture—particularly homes that have environmental or footprint restrictions—these types of homes can be remodeled and added onto. Other benefits include creating shade for multiple levels beneath or adjacent to the cantilevers, helping keep homes sustainable in their energy usage as well.

Photography by Brad Feinknopf. Image via

It might seem iffy, and not quite stable, but cantilevered architecture is one of the most stable methods of architecture. It enables visually stunning and secure buildings directly in line with the modern spirit.

About the author

Sarah C

Sarah C

Ever since receiving her first home décor magazine at a young age, Sarah has been drawn to the design world, leading her to work creatively as the Print Marketing Manager at YDesign Group. When she is not gushing over interior design on the interwebs, she is usually writing about it. In her off time you can find her hiking, enjoying a nice long brunch, and exploring the awesomeness of Northern California. IG: @sarahwinningham

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