AZ House

AZ House Adma, Lebanon The site: The house is located on a 1050 m2 parcel on the Maamltein cliff with spectacular views towards the open sea of the Junieh city bay. The Program: The design program consists of a family residence that provides a duality of functions, private family spaces and social spaces. Despite the numerous requirements, the program was compacted into a single volume which opens onto the garden and the sea beyond while limiting the visibility from the street. Accordingly, the compactness allows the gardens and terraces to occupy two thirds of the land, while the ‘infinity’ pool located at the cliff edge of the site, and which extends from one edge of the plot to the other, emphasizes and extends the apparent infinity of the sea. The House: The design adopts a fundamental principle of Lebanese architecture, where simple, pure volumes are set against striking natural surroundings. Amidst the unstructured backdrop of the cliff, a simple cube emerges. The purity of this platonic shape keeps a certain discretion and simplicity without compromising its inevitable physical presence. The volume is punctured with loggias, windows and suspended gardens creating a series of different framed landscapes. A double height patio, linked to the main living, is carved out of the building mass at the south-east area and this intensifies the spatial experience of the view. At the north-west a triple-volume louvered patio creates a link between the family bedrooms yet privacy is still maintained. The master bedroom occupies the entire top floor providing a luxurious suite with flexibility between the sleeping area, the bathroom and the terrace extension beyond. The roof terrace with its elevated privacy, complete with plunge pool, present an uninterrupted panorama of the Jounieh bay. The plot itself, around 1000m2, does not give rise to grand gestures. The solution for the volume is a reasonably compact verticality (3 floors), which allows for a neat garden and pool (across the entire width of the site). The back façade (facing the street), in contrast to the front elevation (facing the bay) is relatively opaque. Treating the street façade this way with narrow vertical slits allowed larger garden space and increases the privacy from the neighboring 8 storey buildings across the street. This also allowed the opportunity to make best use of the front and side elevations to benefit from the views which look towards two major bays and all the way to the border. Structure: The frame is reinforced concrete. In order to allow for clear views towards the sea, the two lateral walls were designed to act as mega-beams supporting a 17m span across the main façade. The ground floor has almost 6 meter clear ceiling height giving rise to a capacious space given the view and the drop of the cliff. Another particularity is the use of double intelligent walls along the facades to house all the shafts, wires, HVAC equipment etc. They are easily accessible and allow for bookshelves, closets and libraries; this has a variety of benefits that also include deeply recessed windows where there is a greater need for privacy, sun protection or both. Environmental Strategy: Careful consideration was taken during the design process to locate the windows to make the most of the views to the bay. This led to a need to consider carefully the depth and sizing of these openings. Integrating the ‘intelligent’ walls into the project provided an integral part of the solution for this issue. Solar tubes are to be used for general and water heating, and the collection of rain water for irrigation. Conclusion: There is an elegant simplicity which was carried through every aspect of the project. The modesty of the scheme in a sense, allowed a manipulation of the scale a little. The users, both family and guests, experience a variety of spaces. The views are both framed in instances and boundless in others. The varying spaces range from a vertical space of 6 meter high ceiling in the upper living room to a compressed 2.8 meter ceiling in the pool house below. Across a 17 meter wide façade with fully sliding glass, there is a completely different perspective with an extreme panoramic crop accentuated by the infinity pool and the skyline beyond. Depending on the time of day or occasion, this sort of post card irony is played around the view and becomes what the family will get to perceive as their house. The broken facades seen from the outside become the direct result of this with addition of variable depth. Finally, the house attempts to keep a friendly scale, a desired modesty, and muteness amidst the schizophrenia of both a grand natural setting and the spoil of chaos around it.


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