Ismaeil House by X-Architects, Dubai
All images and information courtesy of X-Architects Dubai
X-Architects have provided us with some infoarmation on one of their villa projects in Dubai.
With the major and rapid urban transformations a city like Dubai is undergoing, architectural definitions, forms and values are put into crucial questions. The city has chosen to take high technology construction methods and transform the old traditional city into rapid and bold mega structures that confidently compete with the “highest”, “biggest” or “most prestigious” building structures worldwide.
Criticizing this massive urban transformation architecturally is both logically valid but insanely unsound. The state and speed of this transformation makes any conservative or superficial critique lame. Therefore, one would see that valid criticism in such a region is one that is architecturally enriched with specialization in both the architectural genre of the building and thus its respective characteristics.
In this project, residential housing becomes the interest. A brief outlook on the history of housing in the region demonstrates a dramatic transformation; here the transformation becomes specifically sensitive as unlike most other transformations in the city, this component of the urban fabric had former valuable precedents. Office buildings, shopping malls, hotels, hospitals, airports, highways and flyovers are all structures that had no precedents in the region less than four decades ago. Therefore, the existence of such structures in the city in itself a creation that is impossible to compare against any else.
Housing, on the other hand, becomes a unique case. The rich and unique history of traditional housing in the region is an asset one can not exclude from the city, even if the city’s transformation is successively eliminating it. The appreciation of the architectural beauty and ingenious cultural adoption of the region’s traditional housing was the cause and motif of this project. With the absolute refusal of nostalgic imitation or recreation of the past’s innovations, this project addresses new and experimental spatial experiences and configurations that can achieve the values these novel traditional buildings have deservedly achieved.
The cultural values and behaviors of this region is an aspect that is nonetheless existent, but strives recognition within the transformed city. The segregation of men and women in public spaces and the importance of the sacredness of the family’s quarters in private spaces are some of the major cultural issues that currently are in a blurred state. X House attempts to resolve these issues, where privacy here becomes the ultimate motif.
Four free standing walls, read as detached planes, secure the inner volumes that contain the house’s programs from the outside public. The shifting of the volumes between the outer shell, the exterior planes, creates a spatial play of mass and void, all enveloped inside this private arrangement.
The zoning configuration of the house differentiates between its users; family members and visitors. Separate entries lay symmetrically at the north western façade. The public entry leads directly to the majlis, following the outdoor transition space of the rectangular raised court, nourished with modest plant pots. A longer rectangular court that contains a raw concrete seating bench and a soothing reflecting pool creates a warming entry for the family. The entrance to the house is elevated, and leads indoors to the double height space of the living room.
The traditional courtyard is presented in this project in a unique manner. A series of small courts within the house’s perimeter create transparent relationships with the private outdoor, as well as creating a microclimatic environment of natural air currents into the interior spaces. Moreover, the interior spaces are enriched with a multi-layered depth of inside and outside spaces that differentiate themselves with a transparent layer of glass. This nurtures the light quality of indoor spaces, as well as performing a zealous dialogue between inside and outside. The gardens become an essential component of the interiors spaces.
The spatial configuration of the house’s interior stresses bold yet minimal volumetric gestures. The massiveness of the house’s exterior is diluted by large openings that flood light in and frames outside views to become permanent imported snapshots of the outside to the inside. A floating bridge dissects the double height living area and connects the hanging mass of the ‘long room’ to the two sides of the roof.
The ‘long room’, a non-labeled room required by the client is a 4×18 m rectangular room with a square bathroom on one of its corners being the only defined space in this peculiar volume. The rest of it is left exposed to personal adjustments, with only the openings in its two longer sides forcing an orientation. On one side, the room juts outwards into the living room, surveying it through its glass openings, and casting its mass into the negative double height space. On the other side, it monitors the roof garden and glimpses inner views from the majlis’ double height openings.
A spine that dissects the house marks its privacy threshold. Marked by a door opening from the majlis, transforming into a corridor that bisects various utilities, (guest’s quarter, maid’s quarter, kitchen and dining), the spine leads to the private entity of the house. Here, it becomes emphasized with the hanging mass of the bridge, which also marks the entrance of the two bedrooms in the ground floor. The change of ceiling heights caused by the bridge creates a snuggling transition space into the sleeping quarters. Each bedroom overlooks an outside court, enabling light and views into and out of the rooms.
‘Ismaeil House’, a possession of Mr. Ismaeil Client, is located in Nad Alhammar, Dubai, U.A.E. With a property land of 1394 m², the house covers an area of 460 m². Although the house seems to be an autonomous structure, it responds to the cultural values and behaviors of the region. Four free standing walls, read as detached planes, secure the inner volumes that contain the house’s programs from the outside public.