Photo Credit: Omri Amsalem
After an intensive decade of designing Private Homes Asaf Gottesman and Gottesman Szmelcman Architecture stopped accepting commissions for villas in 2001. There were still several on-going projects but the last of our “homes” was completed in 2006. Our main reason for withdrawing from the domain was our increasing focus upon larger scale international projects and the opening of our Paris office. We felt that we could no longer deliver the level of service required by private clients and rather than disappoint we chose to abstain.
Yet a few years ago we were asked by close friends, for whom we had already designed a home in the past, to design a new home for them. In spite of our stated concerns, our friends insisted. The nature of our practice had, however, changed. We were mostly working as “Concept Architects” on large-scale projects and had developed a different skill-set that required collaboration with local architects rather than developing complete sets of execution and detailed drawing. As a result we were actually losing our ability to develop detailed design and this was particularly apparent among the younger generation of architects who had joined us. We felt the loss and we realized that perhaps we should take this opportunity to re-sharpen our pencils. So after some hesitation we accepted the commission.
Working with close friends and old clients was both familiar and new. Eyal is very much a hands on person. A creative thinker with a keen sense of logic and an instinctive disregard for established norms. Yael is a saint with a sense of humor with boundless energy and impressive organizational skills. Because of our friendship we undertook this project together and this private home is truly a collaborative project that I believe was transformative to all involved.
Topographically the plot enjoys a gentle slope down from west to east that creates approximately 150cm variant in the natural ground level. We opted to design the house so that from the west the building would seem like a single floor house but from the east offered two floors with a separate garden for the kids. The use of fair-faced concrete formed from regular planks and the large, thin-framed windows underlined the clients’ preference for minimalism. There is a particular sense of quiet modesty that is generally reserved for single floor homes and this house seems deceivingly small and simple because the aspect of the lower floor faces a secluded east-facing garden.
Our clients are blessed with four boys with the oldest being approximately 20 years older than the youngest two who are twins. Family life is informal yet their esthetic is minimal and rigorous. There is very little clutter and every item in the home is chosen carefully. Programmatically what is arguably special in the case of this home is that they chose to have their bedroom on the ground level adjacent to the living area, while all the children have their rooms and family area on the floor below. There is the saying that “Man plans and God laughs” and in reality, the twins share the bedroom with their parents!
Internally, the areas at the upper level are clearly defined yet merge seamlessly because there are no corridors. On the lower level, each of the kids has their own bedroom suite while a large family room serves as an additional living area that also enables the kids to entertain their friends without encroaching upon the tranquility of the upper floor.
West facing homes create particular challenges in terms of solar exposure. This is especially true in Israel where the sun can be relentlessly from 12am to 5pm. We introduced cantilevered concrete caskets that extend outwards for three meters while carefully positioned large deciduous trees beyond the pool in order to deliver shade during the late afternoon. The concrete caskets and deciduous trees establish a changing dialogue between the fixed orientation of the house and the cyclical journey of the sun.