Zellij House

Project Description

Zellij House

How does one coalesce elements from traditional Moroccan architecture with modern living in the Bay Area — in a natural, symbiotic and performative way?

Inspired both by the intricate geometric motifs found in Zellij tiling and the private residential garden courtyard typology of traditional Dars & Riads in Morocco, we designed this home for a family of four to subtly adapt, infuse and integrate the spirit and ethos of the architecture from their homeland with modern living in the Bay Area.

Conceptualized as a series of interconnected garden pavilions, the interiors of the house episodically alternate and interweave with a series of outdoor spaces and gardens, allowing sunlight, fresh air, views and greenery to soak into all corners of the house—much needed on an unbelievably deep and elongated site.

Echoing the courtyard typology of traditional Dars & Riads in Morocco, the entire home is organized around a concealed central south-facing courtyard, lined with authentic Bejmat tile and Olive trees.  A sculptural stair rises up and opens upon two unique elements:  a long glass bridge overlooking the courtyard below, and a private rooftop terrace again in the classic tradition of Moroccan Dars & Riads.

How both of these elements—the ‘glass bridge’ overlook and the floating ‘hoverbox’ roof terrace— have been transformed however, is both have been gently wrapped by light and diaphanous metal screens, laser-cut with carefully calibrated patterns of shifting stars, octagons, flowers and diamonds in the geometric tradition often associated with Zellij mosaic tiling.  Having jumped across materials though, these patterns now not only serve an aesthetic purpose, but more importantly serve critical functions of providing much needed solar shading and filtering for privacy and views amidst a dense suburban context.

Paired with solid white plaster walls, these light, metal-clad volumes concurrently dance, counterpoint and interweave with the garden spaces below, forming an optimistic constellation of interconnectedness—of landscape and architecture, of heavy and light, of inside and out, of modern living in parallel with the cultural historic.