"The clients made an idealistic decision to purchase the land after the most recent Lebanese/Israeli war," says Guy Zucker, principal architect in New York’s Z-A Studio. "The area was devastated. It was bombed by Hezbollah from the southern part of Lebanon."
Once hostilities ceased, the economy of the nearby village of Shomera was in shambles. To give it a jump-start, land was priced very reasonably, with the stipulation that buyers cover part of the village debt.
"The client said: ‘Okay, we’re going to build. We want to do it, and if it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t work out—but we will have helped the village,’" says Zucker. Security regulations required concrete walls, 18 inches thick. The building had to be situated so that it faced away from the border. That opened it up to views of nearby forest and valley. The result is an angular, geometric essay that mediates the conflicting conditions of heavy war zone with lighter vacation home.
"The way we typically work, we look first not to the imagery but to the restraints, like the security," Zucker says. "That sets the organization, the scheme. Once that’s in place, it inspires us." He placed three rectangular blocks containing two bedrooms and a bath around a common area, to form a closed-in courtyard. The common space is perforated with a number of openings to contrast with the weightier blocks and provide lightness for the feel of a vacation home.
"I saw the blocks as rocks," he says. "We connected them to the landscape like a Zen garden. Around the rocks are little pebbles, combed in a ripple effect. Then we took the interior floor pattern and organized the ceramic tile to ripple around the big blocks. It’s a gradient color of blue inside and out. And it forms a porch-like area between the house and the outside."
In essence, Zucker has carved a surprisingly successful oasis of peace out of one of the most war-torn places on the planet.
To see more images of the project, please view the slideshow.
J. Michael Welton
Mike Welton writes about architecture, art and design. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Interior Design, Inform, Modern and Artworks. He also publishes an online design magazine at www.architectsandartisans.com.