WA House, by Badih and Kantar Architects

Location: Adma, Lebanon
Architect: Badih and Kantar Architects

Sitting high above its neighbors, this house, designed for a young couple and two small children; offers views overlooking the Jounieh Bay to the west, and the Metn Mountain to the north.

Design concept and solution
With simple geometric shapes, the 729 m2 three-level house and a technical floor intends to evoke lightness within a language of massive volumes, and different heavy and light materials such as white blasted exposed concrete and exposed steel.
Other than the overall size of the house, sustainability informed every design choice. To keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter, double concrete block walls are filled with Polyisocyanurate (an ecological insulator) and windows are double-paned with low emissivity glass. Solar power is used for water heaters, as well as for pool heating and garden lighting. A hydronic heating system reduces power consumption, as does west-oriented openings. Pluvial water harvesting and gray water treatment systems water the garden, which is mostly landscaped with native vegetation. A green roof provides further insulation and helps to integrate the house into its natural surroundings.
The house sits on an unused artificially leveled area of the site that has become a residential zone thirty years ago. Since the client wanted a house that seamlessly blends into the natural surrounding topography, we designed this house as a collection of Small Mountain local stepping.
WA House is characterized by its topological qualities rather than by its functional ones. The distinct and qualified spaces allow their residents to enjoy everyday experiences. It has a fan arrangement on site that adds further variation to the shape of the interior spaces, from which there are wide views of the surrounding landscape.
The floors are arranged in an upside down order putting the public floor is next to higher street level where the main entrance is. The second basement comprises of the bedrooms floor for the children and the third basement is designed for family and holds the master bedroom.  
On the main level, which is the first basement, there is an open space reception hall 18 meter long, as well as a dining space, guest bedroom and kitchen.

The second level basement contains a living-playing hall area and thee master bedrooms.
The third basement is the family living hall and the master bedroom.
The fourth extra floor, which is excluded from the measurable area and accessible from the lower street level; features parking spaces, maids and services areas, a media hall and a wine cellar.
Interiors are simple and uncluttered, with a central concrete tower on the main floor consisting of a sculptural staircase of exposed concrete, wooden strips panels, glass and steel; within a surprisingly high space where natural light is captured through a series of museum-like big windows.  
Gardens -Privates outdoor spaces
The building section articulates the public and private areas of the house. On the one hand, the sunny, open and transparent ground floor dissolves into the garden, whereas on the other hand a secretive, cagey and bright first floor introduces a more nuanced interior-exterior relationship. Here, the desired privacy is achieved by several patios enclosed by straight-shaped clean walls that arranged to allow seeing without being seen, and help to regulate the intense light of the Jounieh area where the sun is always shining. The garden facing elevations of WA house are glazed from floor to ceiling on the ground floor.
A U shaped concrete box, arranged to accommodate existing trees, is half-buried into the slope. An underground corridor links the parts of the box, which flank a courtyard. This smoothly finished, stepped courtyard symbolizes the natural contour of the site.
Slits cut through the walls facing the courtyard are intended to generate dynamic plays of light and shadow on the interior spaces. The addition box is separated from the upper building by levels. An exposed concrete wall defines its territory. Cut into that wall is a slit that not only provides light at the top, but it also creates complex patterns of intersecting walls along the back side. Introducing the wall and openings intersections of light to the previously rectilinear scheme helps create a more harmonious landscape.
Questions to design residential spaces
How to combine an adequate privacy together with a straight relationship with the outdoor space in a small urban plot? How to enhance the spatial experience in a reduced residential program?
Interior -exterior spaces
The roofs of each room can also be used people as terraces. Because of that, various space relations exist such as room/room, room/terrace, and terrace/terrace.
Even though the house is separated from the outside environment, the dwelling inside creates spaces that revolve continuously around the center of the construction standing like a big tree. This adds to the enjoyment of residing in a house where comfort meets natural environment and where people could feel the unraveling of the spaces.

 Text and Images courtesy of Badih and Kantar Architects, .

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  1. dr.H