Underneath It All
Jill Connors -- Interior Design, 3/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
To convert the basement of a Tel Aviv house into two apartments, SpaceCraft Architecture dug deep for a design solution. Principals Tamir Addadi and Raphael Cohen cut two holes in the rear foundation wall, then scooped out the earth beyond the footprint of the house—making room for a glazed extension and a small garden, all 9 feet below grade.
Given the house's hillside location, the only way to remove the dirt was through the basement and out the front, which is at street level. SpaceCraft started the big dig by creating a new doorway just wide enough for a compact excavator. "The Bobcat measured 55 inches wide, so we made the entry 59," Addadi says. That opening is now fitted with French doors, which open to a shared vestibule for the apartments.
The twin units—both under 500 square feet—are oriented around the rear light shaft, where SpaceCraft built a pebble garden complete with cooking herbs and dwarf citrus trees. Right inside the L-shape glazed extension, which runs along two sides of the garden, the apartments' kitchens soak up the sunshine all day. The architects placed the living areas in the middle of the floor plans and the sleeping quarters up front, out of reach of early morning rays.
Minimal construction—concrete columns and partial walls, pine sleeping platforms—defines the function areas. "Each apartment is essentially one continuous room," Addadi says. "Having it flow into the garden creates the illusion of a bigger space."
So does the architects' precision. Addadi and Cohen employed an 8-inch grid for the sandstone floor, and squares are a recurring motif. The tables dotted throughout the apartments are MDF cubes painted white.
Also boxy, the kitchen's floating cabinets are constructed of pine or frosted acrylic. SpaceCraft built a sink and a cooktop into the quartz-composite counter, but there's no refrigerator or oven. Addadi suggests that a microwave could sit on the counter and a small refrigerator be placed on the floor in the kitchen or the living area. "These apartments will be rented to young professionals," he explains.
Compact and minimal though the apartments may be, they are home to an inspiring play of light. The bamboo canopy above a part of the garden creates shadows that dance across the floors all day long. As Addadi describes it, "The patterns are ever changing, according to the sun's movement in different seasons. And the cats that walk across the glass roof." Dig it.