In Yarmouk, a quiet suburban neighbourhood in Kuwait, sits a recently completed villa that responds to local climate while abiding to minimalism’s rigid rules. Inhabited by two brothers and their families, the villa faces a residential street and is surrounded by other homes on its three remaining sides. Though the built fabric of its environment mostly consists of traditional design, the villa in Yarmouk provides a new aesthetic to its street.
“The simple minimalist language that we used for the formal expression of the villa mandated that we use natural light and shadows to enhance the spaces inside,” said Hend Almatrouk, CEO of Studio Toggle. “The outline of the house was staggered to increase the effective perimeter and hence, achieve more natural light through more windows.”
The 2,500m2 home features installed lightwells and skylights, employed strategically to help bring in natural light. Although, because this also means increased heat gain, the architects used high-efficiency windows and skylights, with multiple gazing panels and low-E glass with thermal break profiles. And the massing of the villa, through its self-shading overhangs and cantilevers, ensured that the house receives more diffused natural light that direct sunlight.
“We took advantage of the harsh direct Kuwaiti sun, and created sharp shadows that contrast with the crisp which massing to create almost sculptural compositions,” said Almatrouk. “The idea was to keep the interior spaces austere with a touch of flamboyance. Our studio draws its influences from the minimalist pragmatism of Scandinavian design, as well as the spiritual purity of the Japanese Zen outlook on life.”
Because the brief called for a very dense programme in comparison to the allowed footprint, as well as for both units to be identical, multiple challenges were posed in terms of finding a balance between enclosed and open spaces and lighting. In addition to the lightwells, balconies and skylights, the architects also installed numerous sliding glass panels, high walls and louvers throughout.
The exterior of the house is finished in an austere palette of white cement render, contrasted against the rough grey finish of the window frames and louvers. The louvers, according to a statement released by the architects, afford the necessary privacy to the stepped entrance foyer and the roof garden, softening the impact of the crisp white massing.
“Maintaining privacy was one of the most important challenges as dictated by the prevalent social norms,” said Almatrouk. “We approached this by making sure that the two units are completely insulated from each other, apart from the social spaces in the basement and on the roof. The wall separating the two units was acoustically treated to minimised sound bleed, as well as louvres being employed to ensure privacy for the skylights and light wells.”
“Over all,” she added, “a balance between privacy and openness was sought after and achieved.”