Dec 20, 2023

This Stunning Home in Egypt Looks Like a Modern Sphinx

By Elizabeth Fazzare

The elusive carte blanche is every designer’s dream—that go-ahead from a client to let creativity run wild and explore a concept, material, or form in depth. When it is allotted, the projects that result are often progressive and artful; they help drive experimentation in the practice and inspire peers toward new design possibilities. For a beach villa on the northern coast of Egypt, Spanish architect Fran Silvestre was the lucky one. His patron requested a “very unique” design, and he heeded that call with a home that explores the structural limits of the architectural cantilever, inspired by the opportunities of its site and the country’s ancient culture.

Taking the geometric form of a sphinx, the composite human-lion-eagle figure that served as a protector in Egyptian mythology, the house connects a grounded flat-roofed two-story volume with a smaller upper floor, raised approximately 50 feet in the air and accessed through a vertical elevator core. From the side, it appears only to be supported by a single line of concrete, less than a foot thick. In actuality, the proposed construction is akin to a jib crane, where the trapezoidal core hides a mast that stabilizes the loft-like extension. “The cantilever is the greatest challenge of the structure,” explains Silvestre, principal of eponymous Valencia-based firm Fran Silvestre Arquitectos. “Considering it as a single large piece, the vertical shaft allows the length of the lower part to act as a stabilizing counterweight to support the significant weight of the upper part.”

The stunning building is scheduled to begin construction in 2023.

The completion date for the home will be sometime in 2024.

This “counterweight” is where the majority of the home’s program resides. Its three levels (two floors plus a basement) host 10 bedrooms including two primary suites, two kitchens, several living rooms, a spa, and horse stables. Though the house is beachside, it also is designed with a large outdoor swimming pool on the ground floor with terraces and a garden for sunny relaxation. The floating level contains the largest primary suite, giving it the feel of a separated apartment altogether. Continuous window walls on two parallel sides of each volume frame vistas of the surroundings. Because its location on a small island within a larger 580-acre residential community, “the height of the building is essential to enjoying 360-degree views of the Mediterranean Sea,” the architect says.

The home will be supported by a single line of concrete, less than a foot thick.

The location of the home will allow for uninhabited views of the sea.

Precisely like a sphinx, this home is an exercise in spectacle. However, it is also an experiment in the possibilities of contemporary building technology and materials, an exploration of self-sufficient multifamily living, and an example of purely minimalist architecture. Its form may seem simple, but it’s its complex design which allows it. According to Silvestre, “homes of the future will take care of us and our health” by incorporating ever-advancing concepts for good living, circadian lighting, biophilia, and indoor air quality and humidity control among them. “They should be enriching environments where we not only want to live, but also want to work.” The seaside backdrop of this resort villa might distract your Zoom coworkers, but it would certainly make for an inspiring live/work atmosphere. Silvestre and his team plan to start construction on the home this year, with an anticipated completion date of 2024.