Facing the sea at Jaffa, immersed in the Mediterranean light of Tel Aviv, this apartment gets its domestic feel from the encounter and peaceful coexistence of antique walls and light inserts in a contemporary cosmopolitan and metropolitan style

History is a palpable presence, part of the domestic landscape, if you choose to build and dwell in the area of the old port of Jaffa, in Tel Aviv, inside structures three centuries old that are rooted in the Ottoman tradition of architecture. The old walls take on new life thanks to a painstaking project that simultaneously conserves and transforms, opening spaces to light and the view of the sea, but also retreating into the intimacy of a patio, an outdoor living area of the sort that has always been the best counterpart of the Mediterranean house.


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Pitsou Kedem Architects Studio opened in 2000 and today consists of 11 architects. The studio is responsible for the design and planning of many projects in Israel and lately, also in Europe. Pitsou Kedem set up the studio (based in Tel-Aviv) after finishing his studies at the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA). The studio’s design language and concept is founded on the modernist style and his work encompasses the values and principles of the period as well as the design philosophies of the modernist movement. This constant quest for simplicity leads to sophisticated and precise elements which, in turn, contributes to their uniqueness. The majority of the studio’s projects can be characterized by simple geometric, rectangular and recurring shapes that impart an exact and interconnecting look to the structure and its spaces.

Vaults and arches form a series and overlap, resting on massive walls in a dense, fragmented architectural context; the project, in a minimal style, introduces elements of fluidity that foster transitions and connections between spaces. For Pitsou Kedem, the Israeli architect very active in the field of residential and commercial initiatives, the challenge was to come to terms of images, materials, proportions and dimensions not particularly suited to modern comforts, customs and habits.

Kedem has chosen to reduce the existing structure to its essence, laying it bare, removing any cladding from the old walls, with the result of emphasizing the display of the large stone blocks, more or less roughly hewn and juxtaposed, giving form to a continuous rustic effect, sculpturally shaped. It is an action of revealing that transforms the complicated system of ceilings into an aerial landscape, a uniform by interrupted, rocky and multiform cap, organized in architectural fragments that often take on unruly and incomprehensible aspects. Every room, every corner, every landscape becomes a spatial episode hollowed in a single, homogenous material, with spectacular, unpredictable stereometric effects.

Kedem has chosen to reduce the existing structure to its essence, laying it bare, removing any cladding from the old walls, with the result of emphasizing the display of the large stone blocks, more or less roughly hewn and juxtaposed, giving form to a continuous rustic effect, sculpturally shaped. It is an action of revealing that transforms the complicated system of ceilings into an aerial landscape, a uniform by interrupted, rocky and multiform cap, organized in architectural fragments that often take on unruly and incomprehensible aspects. Every room, every corner, every landscape becomes a spatial episode hollowed in a single, homogenous material, with spectacular, unpredictable stereometric effects.

The architect counters this harsh, sporadic masonry landscape with a fluid space that shifts from one room to the next with ease, making the most of the rather compact proportions imposed by the Ottoman structure. The choice is not mimetic, not an imitation of the antique, but instead the invention of forms, profiles, planes, corners, guiding the gaze along jagged trajectories, through the rooms and the necessary connections.

The basic concept is to weave a connection between the Ottoman architecture and our approach which is clearly contemporary, and to find a connection between traditional construction techniques and the innovative technologies of the present."

In the double bedroom a pointed arch frays into a capital that forms an asymmetrical curl, while over the bed the vaults, finished with plaster in this case, overlap fragments of contrasting geometric form. Behind the kitchen the old walls display a true repertoire of arches, windows, niches and vaulted walls, all strictly different from the others and out of alignment. It is a kind of ancient, spectacular anarchy, probably produced by centuries of stratification, different interventions, modifications in various periods prompted by changing uses and necessities.

“The basic concept,” Kedem explains, “is to weave a connection between the Ottoman architecture and our approach which is clearly contemporary, and to find a connection between traditional construction techniques and the innovative technologies of the present.” An intention that takes concrete form, for example, in the insertion “in the original arched openings of glass doors, with casements in burnished bronze, which rotate around a pivot placed in a central or lateral position.”

In this way the doors without hinges bring out the contiguity, but also the difference, between two worlds, antique and contemporary, which graze each other without touching. The large glass doors underline the irregular geometry of the arches and guide the interaction between the interiors and the patio that divides and connects the spaces of the apartment: on one side, the living room, master bedroom and kitchen with dining area; on the other, across the patio, two bedrooms and a bathroom.

The basic concept is to weave a connection between the Ottoman architecture and our approach which is clearly contemporary, and to find a connection between traditional construction techniques and the innovative technologies of the present."

The main problem – that of inserting technology for contemporary comfort in such a venerable structure – generates the most radical solution. According to the architect, “the most important design gesture is that of a metal housing that dynamically runs across the stone walls, containing the entire electrical system, the air conditioning and storage niches. At certain points,” he continues, “the housing is combined with wooden features like doors, the headboard of the bed or the parapets.”

Therefore the identity of the apartment is organized through the interaction of two separate layers where the new never touches – at least not apparently – the old walls. A completely different, technological and dynamic architecture is placed over the antique structure, elegantly and very effectively enclosing all the physical plant systems, with a lining that equips the living space and projects the Ottoman building into a contemporary dimension.

Project Pitsou Kedem architects - Design Avital Shenhav, Pitsou Kedem architect in charge Avital Shenhav - Lighting design Orly Avron Alkabes - Photos Amit Geron