A House In The Rocks
Mimar 41 December 1991
three aims of the project were to respect the environment;
to be both sensitive to tradition and architecturally
inventive; and to satisfy the client's programmatic needs.
Faqra, where the house is located, is both a ski station
during the winter season and a pleasant holiday resort
The site for the residence was a triangular-shaped area
of terrain with three gentle hills, beautiful rocks and
a few wild trees. In keeping with the project's aim of
conserving the environment, most of the wild trees were
kept. We preserved the hills and used the rocks excavated
between them to constitute the fašades. Eventually the
rocks of the fašades will erode and will merge even more
into the surrounding area.
The building linked the apexes of the three hills, creating
a triangular shape for the three-bedroom house. This seemed
the best way to fit the building into the natural terrain.
To emphasize the close relationship between the house
and its immediate surroundings, all accesses are related
in some way to a striking feature of the terrain.
the garage entrance is literally carved into the rock
and all its interior walls are deliberately faced in stone
which is treated identically to the exterior fašades.
The top steps of the main exterior staircase emerge from
a rock formation and its bottom steps arch over the service
entrance, shielding the latter from the main street. Similarly,
another service access from the garage to the lower level
of the garden is concealed behind one of the rocky hills.
On the upper level, there is direct access from the living
room to the top of the hill, where steps carved into the
ground lead you down to the intermediate level of the
garden, along a row of wild oak trees. From the master
bedroom balcony there are steps down to the spectacular
Having successfully moulded the triangular structure into
the terrain, the challenge was to create an interesting
succession of internal spaces.
From the parking area, two flights of stairs ascend to
a buffer space that is also accessible from the main exterior
staircase via the sky-lit entrance loggia. This buffer
zone helps reduce heat loss during the winter. The buffer
zone leads to the entry that acts as a circulation distributor:
to the right is the high ceiling living room facing the
main barrel-vaulted arch; the living room extends the
right of this barrel vault while the dining room is located
to its left. To the left of the entry is the bottom of
the interior staircase, of which the first steps appear
to form a sort of pedestal. After a couple of steps is
the door of the first bedroom (a duplex) and the sleeping
areas above. Further up is the door to the master bedroom.
Finally, the last stretch of steps leads to an informal
upper living area that overlooks the lower living area.
This, in turn, gives a glimpse of the entrance loggia
through an oeil-de-boeuf and offers a good view of the
main garden through the upper part of the glazed barrel-vault.
From this upper living room there is access to the third
bedroom or the TV corner a little further up. Two of the
triangular corners were used to accommodate odd-cornered
balconies. The third one contains the living room fireplace.
The traditional Lebanese house consists of a cube surmounted
by a pyramidal red-tiled roof; its main fašade is very
symmetrical and features at its centre a triple pointed
arch; it is generally made out of clean-cut stone.
In this case, the inherent characteristics of the terrain
caused the distortion of the traditional square into a
composite triangle. In the process, the clean-cut stone-made
symmetrical fašades became rubble stone construction asymmetrical
elongated fašades. To counterbalance this effect, some
elements of the vernacular architecture were used such
as the red-tiled roof, the wrought iron balustrades, and
the louvred wood shutters, which accentuate parts of the
Structurally speaking, the perimeter of the house is a
wall-bearing structure. The central structure is formed
by a tall central column reaching the roof apex and a
set of three round columns all 7 metres from the central
one. Those three columns are differently expressed in
the central area: one is semi-embedded in the dining room
wall, another one articulates a change in the internal
staircase and the third is free-standing in the middle
of the living room area.