Pitsou Kedem is an Israeli architect based in Tel Aviv, known for his residential projects, the rigor of his approach and his passion for Made in Italy. Whether he is intervening in a historical context of the Israeli city, coming to terms with a complex existing situation (see Interni 697, December 2019), or building from scratch in the countryside (Interni 695, October 2019), Kedem always manages to create houses packed with emotions. This talent is even more significant today, in a period of planetary crisis and uncertainty, where the beauty of architecture becomes a factor of reassurance, and the home itself becomes a refuge-embrace-shelter from the fragility of the outside world. Tel Aviv is rarely seen from above as in this ample penthouse on the upper levels of a recently constructed tower, which takes the external panorama as the true setting for its 320 square meters per floor, joined by 150 on the rooftop, set into a curved plan.
The interior seems to float, suspended between the central patio around which it is organized, the light that floods the spaces with golden warmth, and the spectacular views of the sea below. The secret is skillful use of horizontal and vertical openings in the volumetric box, first subjected to a sculptural deconstruction and then grafted with progressive layers that blur the boundaries between inside and outside with the multiplication of transparencies, permeability and carefully studied effects of surprise. The first such effect happens precisely at the main entrance to the apartment, channeled by a patio volume open to the sky and the weather, and bordered by full-height glass walls to form in indoor-outdoor buffer zone, also acting as a joint for the various wings of the residence, and a perpendicular passage to a second patio created at the upper level of the roof.
From this place of forceful character, an ideal manifesto of the Mediterranean home that is a constant paradigm of reference in Kedem’s poetics, we directly enter the living area, a single space with a kitchen and dining area organized at the sides, offering a total view of sea and sky on the opposite front thanks to a sequence of rectangular windows that extend along the entire perimeter of the facade, rhythmically sustained by internal spoke-like ribbing. The ribs are clad in reflecting glass, activating other depths of field, long perspectives and visual effects. “The guide the gaze, as in a mirage,” Kedem explains, “because walking along the promenade of the windows, they offer infinite views of the outdoor landscape. Because the sea is to the west and its reflection is to the east, one seems to be living in balance between two seas.”
The more public core of the house, the living area, with its impressive height of 4.5 meters, is enclosed by two thick walls that anchor the space and its functions in a fluid continuum, where the calligraphic grammar of the vertical partitions, in their variety of materic-chromatic and tactile textures, defines the proportions and the always different tones of the various parts. Conceived as wings that incorporate fixed furnishings and dynamic thresholds, these surfaces express an assertive, resolute energy that is counterbalanced by the more feminine character of the sinuous curves of the mobile furnishings.
The wall set aside for the kitchen is a puzzle of Rietveldian lines, a series of irregular portions of steel, veneered panels or Cor-ten that conceal storage spaces, objects and appliances, suggesting an ideal urban projection of the silhouette of the surrounding rooftops, reflected by the windows. In front of this wall, the lower island block for food preparation takes on the terse, rigorous image of a stainless steel monolith, with a length of nearly six meters. At the other end of the open space wall paneling appears, forming the backdrop of the dining area and its ‘luminous machine.’
Here the pace changes, and the extroverted dimension of the shared space gives way to more intimate levels of circulation and communication. Across a flush-mounted door built into the paneling, one reaches the studio-library, a den-like space that leads to the master suite, the most private zone of the house. After a second door set into the wooden backdrop of the dining zone, the service spaces, bathrooms and corridor to a secondary entrance are concealed from view at the back. Along this pathway, the layout reconnects to the patio of the main entrance.
The nerve center of the project is here in this portion that acts as an indoor-outdoor filter, also the anchor point of the sculptural spiral staircase, white and iridescent, visible from every angle, leading to the upper level, the duplex roof conceived as an exclusive realm of socializing, relaxation and psycho-physical wellbeing. Here the dynamic spatial rhythm of the project produces a different geometric grid, which at one end presents the island of a second kitchen and dining zone around a table in volcanic stone created for the occasion by a designer-sculptor. At the other side an archipelago extends for the swimming pool and sundeck, revealed only at an upper level, after having followed a stepped path bordered by succulents.
The stone utilized for the internal and external flooring of the house underlines the visual unity and becomes a constant that functions as a backdrop for the pool. The game is interrupted by the last mirror-window, in white concrete at the back wall of the pool space: yet another mirage of the urban landscape and the sea, projected onto the domestic stage.
Project by Pitsou Kedem Architects - Design team Irene Goldberg, Shirley Marco and Pitsou Kedem - Lead architect Shirley Marco - Photos Amit Geron