Having survived the Lebanese Civil War as a torture and detention center for militia forces, The House With Two Lives has a colorful past to say the least. So when Lebanese design practice Nabil Gholam Architects was asked to renovate the structure — originally built as a resort building in the 1930s — the firm took its time to sensitively pick apart the site’s history and breathe new and positive life into the property. Described as a “difficult exorcism,” the design process saw the reuse of the historic ruins and the insertion of a brand new home celebrating nature and sustainable design, from rainwater harvesting systems to passive cooling strategies.
Located near the Lebanese mountain village of Bois de Boulogne and surrounded by beautiful pine forests, the House With Two Lives was designed to blend in with its idyllic surroundings. To “cleanse the house of its troubled history,” the architects introduced new plant growth to camouflage the building into the landscape, from vines that climb over the ruins to more than 1,000 pine trees planted in the garden, including umbrella pines, oak trees, cork trees, Lebanese cedars and more. The site has also gained a new rose garden.
The theme of regrowth and revival has also been applied to the architecture of the house, which comprises a three-story main house of 2,000 square meters as well as an annex and guard house of 850 square meters. The new additions to the existing 1,500-square-meter stone ruins of the main house were articulated as a series of Corten steel-clad boxes that will develop a patina over time and are perforated with tree-shaped patterns. Sustainability guided the design of the renovated structure, which is built with high-performance insulation and follows passive solar strategies. The home also harvests solar energy for winter heating and uses rainwater collection systems.
“The case of this house is as dreadful as it is beautiful,” said the architects, who spent months stripping the existing structure of leftover torture devices, black ashes and graffiti. “The story behind it and the testimonials backing it makes it stand as a powerful message. The House With Two Lives restores faith in man’s will to fight and is with no doubt an example of an architectural work of high precision.”
Photography by Geraldine Bruneel, Nabil Gholam, Joe Kesrouani and Richard Saad via Nabil Gholam Architects