The Courtowers are a cluster of four family properties in the Amsheet region of Lebanon, which were designed by Beirut architecture office Hashim Sarkis Studios for a plot facing the Mediterranean Sea.
Each of the buildings features a solid base containing the living areas, which is set into the sloping site and provides a plinth for a tower housing the bedrooms.
"The site slopes west towards the Mediterranean," said the architects, "its angle allowing for embedding the houses in the landscape in such a way that the front is open to the view and breeze whereas the other sides of the house are protected by earth."
Double-layered retaining walls lining the edges of the properties add an extra level of insulation against the humid soil, and are used to draw cool air into the interiors.
The double-wall arrangement also contributes to the structure of the buildings and results in a space used to house the main services, including bathrooms, stairwells, laundry areas and storage.
By positioning the essential services around the perimeter of the buildings, the central area on the ground floor is able to accommodate an open-plan living room that opens onto a terrace.
At the rear of the living space, a courtyard is carved into the plan to create an additional outdoor space that facilitates cross ventilation, and produces a comfortable microclimate in both summer and winter.
The towers containing the bedrooms emerge from the southeast corners of the buildings, where they provide shade to the courtyards below.
Inside the tower, bathrooms and stairs are positioned on the eastern and southern edges to provide a protective thermal mass that prevents the summer sun from overheating the bedrooms.
The northwest corner is left free from any structural elements so its entire surface can accommodate floor-to-ceiling retractable windows.
By pulling aside the glazing and opening the folding wooden shutters, the entire edges of the rooms can be opened up to the sea views and breezes.
The room on the first floor opens onto a large terrace positioned on the roof of the main living space, while the top bedroom is lined with a metal balustrade.
Terraces on the roofs of each house are sheltered beneath metal pergolas incorporating timber louvres.
"The combination of the courtyard and tower produces a new house typology that is used with degrees of variation on the site as the development grows around its common facilities and the sea," said the studio.
The site was prepared using a cut-and-fill method that involved excavating the plots for the lower buildings and using the removed soil to elevate the higher properties to ensure their views are not compromised.
The studio was also responsible for renovating some existing houses on the site, and developing a landscaping scheme that uses planting to enhance the sense of transition from the beach to the higher ground.
Architects: Hashim Sarkis, Boulos Douaihy, Rola Idris, Sandra Frem, Wissam Chaaya, Samir Bitar, Pablo Roquero, Cynthia Gunadi, Penn Ruderman, Christopher Johnson, Charif Tabet, Helena Briones
Construction management: Polygon
Structure: Rudolphe Mattar
Mechanics: Roger Kazopoulo
Electrics: Roger Njeim