j house 2005
bois de boulogne, lebanon

This beautiful site in pine forests of the Lebanese mountain resort of Dhour el-Shoueir came with two problems. First, it already had the remains of a home on it, one of the first modern homes to be built here in the 1930’s. Second, the home had been occupied and shelled during Lebanon’s wars and was saddled with an unfortunate reputation.  The issue then, was whether to work with what remained, out of respect for history, or to start from scratch and erase the past.

In the end, the decision was taken to do both. The ruins were first reinforced and then reused as a historic shell into which a brand new home could be inserted, a kind of architectural emulation of the life cycle of the hermit crab.
This ruin’s new ‘resident’ is a series Spartan Cor-ten clad boxes, stacked on one another and which nestle within its walls, their aesthetically rusting rooftops just visible above its parapets. To the rear of the home, a 50-metre, low-slung Cor-ten clad concrete and glass oblong with a planted roof, stretches through the pine trees and cantilevers out over the sloping ground towards the mountains in the distance.

Visually, these new additions stand in stark contrast to the classical arcades and stonework of the ruins but in form they echo the boxy, low-rise mountain homes of Lebanese tradition.

Sunk into the landscape through terracing, the house is already blending into its surroundings. Climbing plants and vines are colonizing the ruins and the deepening rust on the Cor-ten increasingly reflects the iron-rich hues of the earth and the Reddish-brown trunks of the pines.

J House acknowledges its past but by enfolding and overpowering its remains, creates for itself an entirely fresh future, while a chapel is built in memory.


architecture: nabil gholam architects
structural design: Serhal Consulting Office
electro-mechanical design: Pierre Dammous & Partners
landscape design: Vladimir Djurovic Landscape Architecture
3D images: nabil gholam architects, Naji Sleiman