Location: Cotonou, Benin
Project Architect: Atlas Architecture, Benin
Project Year: 2017
Photographs: Yenoukome Akpovi
Benin presents a richness on the traditional architectural level. The emergence of a new middle class aspiring to another condition of life gives to the architect in Africa, especially in Benin, his previously neglected place.
The client’s brief mainly asked the architect to design a family home that must meet a particular site with landscape views. The house had to be elegant, meet a need for entertainment with many guests while being intimate and comfortable for the owners. The project has two bedrooms on the ground floor and three upstairs with a building line area of 250 sqm on a plot of 1000 sqm. Each room has its bathroom and a guest WC on the ground floor. The client wanted the project to be at the same standard as most of the places of accommodation in his travels. The goal was to create a contemporary home, although safety issues were paramount, the project had to carefully integrate them with the privacy sought inside the home.
The living spaces had to be open to improve everyday life. “The architecture has to focused on achieving a contemporary, uncluttered and functional building,” said Lawhal El Chitou, the project’s Chief Architect. The architectural approach of the project presents an absence of preconceived desires, but a will to give back to the architect his lost place in the African city. Each project is thus an opportunity to prove that it is possible to develop a contemporary architecture taking into account the local context.
The design of the house respected the wishes of the owner and his family, to have large open spaces on the outside. The result is a sculptural architecture that gave rise to a unique volume. The house was designed as a perforated box. The left-wing of the main facade, which is part of the living room is covered with a natural earth-colored coating, a nod to the land of rural areas of the country. This part has an opening to allow a view of the pool from the living room. This wall is covered with a natural coating to soften the hardness of steel, glass and concrete facade. There are living areas: the terrace, the pool and the garden, the family rooms are strategically placed on the upper level of the house. The outdoor area allows for entertainment at the pool with an indoor barbecue and bar.
The master bedroom gives a view of the landscaped garden, indoor / outdoor living is guaranteed. Materials such as metal, glass and concrete are highlighted on the facade of the building. The master bedroom is placed on the upper part of the villa, overlooking the garden.The location of the staircase gives rise to different lifestyle of experiences. From the main staircase from the terrace, we join the roof terrace of the upper level without access to all areas of the house. The living area communicates with the kitchen and this in turn communicates with the outside through a door.
The wooden interior doors were made by local craftsmen. These doors have perfectly reflected the concept of the architects in interior design different from the classic that is observed in the field. The architects also made their mark on the sublime connection of interior and exterior spaces that was possible with the use of glass doors. The living and dining area as well as the kitchen and terrace are located in an open area that merges permanently and consistently. The design of the master bedroom includes an indoor sitting area with a beautiful view of the landscape horizon and especially on the entrance of the building and the garden.
The metal mesh on the building facade plays both aesthetic and functional roles. It emphasizes the particular character of the building thanks to a unique design and provokes games of light. This exceptional facade animation that plays with shadow and light is also a very effective solar breeze that responds to local thermal conditions. It plays a role of protection of the building against the wind in a tropical environment. Concrete was the most used element while the lighting reflects the bold forms of the house that scroll through the corners. The building offers unfettered views of the living space and terrace. The kitchen is positioned to serve the living spaces and the external courtyard. The rooms are private living spaces, each of which has protection against sunlight by means of sliding shutters.
The post supporting the facade slab is a structural element that has been designed to bring out the sculptural appearance of the house. The roof protects the access to the entrance hall, the window of the living and dining areas is double glazed, while the sculptural steel staircase and local wood is visible behind the glass door. The guard rails of the staircase were designed by the architects, with a realization of the local craftsmen.
-project description by the architects