Ten years ago, just as Israeli architect Nir Levie was starting out, he was identified as one of the most exciting, up-and-coming architects under the age of 40 and recognised for his work on the Ilan Ramon memorial at Tel Aviv University in a prize which was awarded Ramon’s wife.
Setting up his own Tel Aviv practice with partner Srulik Bartton seemed like the logical next step.
Ten years on, Kloom Studios is still determined to break new ground with every project, and deliver “aesthetics, [a] good experience and fun.”
On the fun side, Levie is especially proud of the studio’s design of climbing gyms in Tel Aviv and in Modi’in.
“As a climber myself I knew all the tiny details that needed to be attended to in the design process and I’m really proud of the outcome,” Levie told The Times of Israel in a recent interview.
A villa like no other
Although a small studio consisting of the two partners and a dog they share, Kloom Studios has caught the interest of the design community.
Kloom Studios put “a lot of emphasis on the aesthetic aspect of a project,” Levie said. “This is our specialty. Pure aesthetics are mostly regarded as not important or less important than all the other constraints. However, we believe that aesthetics are important to humans and serve an important function in architecture.”
“The aesthetics that we’re striving for are something new that people haven’t seen before and evoke a ‘wow’ emotion,” he explained.
“One of our points of difference is to ensure that beauty is also functional, and therefore that creativity does not only make a building look different from its neighbors but also enables it to function differently,” said Levie. The studio is known “for creating irregular designs, amorphous structures and non-linear forms. We have a lot of experience with CAM (computer-aided manufacture), we can design special objects and create them efficiently and relatively cheaply.”
Kloom Studios’ most recent project, completed just this year, was a unique villa in Gan Yavne, a commuter town to the east of Route 4 town near Ashdod.
It is a largely ordinary residential town, primarily with villas and cottages, and is not known for architectural innovation.
Levie, who is also an accomplished graphic artist, led the project with an ambition to deliver a home that would be far more than one of a series of residential cubes for the family who commissioned it. One challenge was to create something true to the values of Kloom Studios, but that could sit alongside the prevailing landscape of traditional, red-roofed villas.
The request from the family was a house that maximizes the allowed floor area, and yet is flexible for divisions in the future. The façade should be intriguing and visible from the main street.
Built across 300 square meters (3,229 square feet), the villa looks like no other in Israel.
Levie told The Times of Israel that “the initial goal with the Gan Yavne Villa was to create a flexible house that can accommodate one family, or more, with more than one optional entrance. There was an intent to make the project unique but within a moderate budget.”
For this reason, Levie invested most of the studio’s efforts in the front façade of the villa.
The design concept was derived from the shape of a simple stone, plain on the outside but capable of being cut to expose a crystalline structure with angular shapes and textures. The surface of each of the metal panels in the exterior paneling is straight and flat on the outside, but the inside is irregular, angular, with each panel a slightly different but still organic shape.
Combined, they create a rippling yet playful texture across the front of the house.
Over a hundred unique aluminum boxes were manufactured to create the external effect. Kloom Studios made use of 3D technology to design the panel grid, a structure that was then unfolded to create a flat layout that the manufacturer could handle. The panels arrived on site with a special numbering system to ensure that contractors inserted each panel into exactly the right space.
The lower floor of the villa is made up of more family spaces, including a double-height living room, and the upper floor is reserved for private spaces. The roof offers a balcony with a view of the neighborhood.
And instead of creating a floor plan of one box-like shape to contain all parts of the house, the villa is made up of two floor plans, with one set back from the other.
Also visible from the outside and integral to the design is a staircase which is emphasized by the shape of the façade around it. Levie describes it as the main pivot to the structure, designed to blend with the unique exterior and connecting the two parts of the villa as it leads up to the bedroom level.
Levie said his goal was not purely aesthetics. Sustainability is also key to much of his work.
“We use computer simulations for the projects to check different sustainability elements before we finish the design. Specifically in this villa, we designed the main façade to be double-skinned. The outer layer is perforated to help the air flow and cool the wall. The double skin helps lower the radiation levels from the sun and lower air-conditioning usage,” said Levie.
Although he actively seeks to develop it in his work, Levie believes it’s too early in the life of the country to identify a specific, unique “Israeli” style of architecture. For a long time, homes and other buildings were built to cater to particular needs (like providing mass housing), with little thought to their aesthetic function.
“That’s alright. Israel is a young country. We’re still experimenting,” he said.
Israeli design is in a process of evolution, factoring in climate challenges and unique building specifications for the country (such as ensuring that construction includes a safe room, known in Hebrew as a Mamad), he explained.
Stylistically, Levie said Israeli design concepts stand apart from other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries, and will continue to do so.
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