This simple white cube, measuring 18 meters on each side, with recessed windows, carved volumes containing suspended gardens and at its uppermost level, an extruded stone and frit glass box housing the bathroom facilities of the master suite, has a Mondrian-esque façade that lends it the air of a Chinese puzzle box.
The house occupies a small but ideally located site in a densely constructed neighborhood at one end of the sweeping Bay of Jounieh to the north of Beirut. Although it gives little hint of this at first, the house is very much designed with the drama of its surroundings in mind.
As the house faces onto Lebanon’s busy coastal highway, the first impression is of a mute, almost fortified façade but when seen from the garden, which is shielded from the neighbors by tall hedgerow, the AZ House reveals itself an exercise in expansiveness.
Whether it is from the recessed patio on the upper level, the plunge pool on the roof, the loggia fronting the living area or the artfully placed pool at the edge of the small cliff-top garden, the house makes the most of its location. The gaze is constantly drawn towards the sea, Jounieh’s dramatic mountain backdrop or the shimmering towers of Beirut on the horizon. Where neighboring buildings impinge, windows become slit-like. Where the view is open, they become more generous, framing the landscape like a painting.
Though relatively modest by the standards of other family houses in its category, by orienting itself to draw in and integrate a lengthy swathe of Lebanon’s mountainous Mediterranean coastline, the house feels almost boundless, it’s sense of space further emphasized by the fact that no columns clutter its floor plan.
The most public areas are the garden level pool house and the assorted living spaces of the double height entry level, where the mezzanine contains a guest bedroom.
Family bedrooms are located on the floor above. They are linked to one another and to the master bedroom and spacious rooftop terrace above them by a series of staircases, punched-in atria and a triple-volume louvered patio, which deftly balances the desire for openness and cross-ventilation with the need to preserve privacy.
With more than a touch of a Mediterranean townhouse about it, the AZ House is an oasis of serenity set in busy surroundings, an elegant architectural exercise in rigor and playfulness.
CNBC Arabian Properties Awards: 5 stars winner in the Residential single unit section
World Architectural Festival Awards 2009: Shortlisted in the Residential- Future Projects category
1. Facade cladding: Bianco Thassos, grooved finish
2. Flooring: White wood marble, vein cut
3. Wall panelling: French Oak, whitened
4. Facade Openings: Vitrocsa Slim profile
5. Canopies: Beadblasted stainless steel
6. External Wood cladding: American Red Cedar, exposed finish