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Courtyard House

The most significant evidence of the oncethriving Arab Palestinian tradition of country villas has by now been destroyed or transformed beyond recognition. At the Courtyard House (Villa Fahed), Senan Abdelqader revisits an almost forgotten tradition of Levantine rural living in luxurious aristocratic dwellings. But instead of mimicking the proud posturing and imposing monumentality of its historical precedents, the architectural approach developed for the Villa, located near Taibeh, is guided by modesty and sensitivity to the place and the contemporary cultural context.

 

Enclosure

The villa is situated within a sumptuous fig and citrus grove typical of the planes between the foothills of the West Bank and the Mediterranean seashore. Its external appearance, like that of a traditional farmhouse, is unostentatious: an uninterrupted whiteplastered perimeter wall of undulating height serves as a simple division between the agricultural and the domestic areas, enclosing a rectilinear section of the grove.

Unfolding behind this wall is an introverted environment of diverse interior spaces and courtyards, sheltered from the dusty heat and the Mediterranean sun. Its spatial organization is reminiscent of the internal structure of a traditional Arab hosh – an internal courtyard formed by the grouping of differently programmed volumes of various sizes. At the Courtyard House, a hosh is formed between a “reception area” including a diwan and a small guest apartment, and a sleeping area including bedrooms and bathrooms for the family members. An open-plan landscape is created between these two volumes, partly-indoor partly-outdoor, including kitchen, eating and living areas: the informal heart of family life.

Here, the spatial concepts of fluidity and horizontality were realized through open-plan arrangements, generous glazed curtain walls and window openings, which were borrowed from European modernist tradition and, more specifically – from the Miesian courtyard house.

 

Engagement

The Courtyard House, however, does not strive to create a decontextualized, individualistic utopia of domestic living. Its functional and spatial affinities with the surrounding landscape are complex, active, and utilitarian. The house dwellers cultivate their own fig tree garden (bustan) which infiltrates the house’s largest courtyard. The perimeter wall offers natural climate control: while

the south facing side of the house remains closed and protected, large slits along the eastern and western façades allow passage of

prevailing winds to ventilate the interior.

Finally, several openings and carefullypositioned slits in the perimeter wall allow for a multiplicity of visual connections between interior and exterior, as well as with the nearby village and the surrounding groves. An internal staircase climbs up to a roof garden with panoramic views of the surrounding rural-agricultural landscape.

 

Architecture of (in)Dependency