Spiral Apartment House
The Spiral House is situated on a hillside in Ramat Gan, one of the towns in the Dan metropolitan region that includes the city of Tel Aviv. The building is designed like an enlarged set of steps that begin on the ground and spiral upwards.
On the lower side, it creates terraces open to the sky; on the other side, a shaded area cooled by the lower floors. The cool, shady area is used for corridors, entrances to apartments fan shaped apartments, ramps, staircases, and an elevator. The heart of the building, the most important element, is the interior courtyard.
|A building is based on the precision of an idea on which variations are made. With the Spiral House, the idea itself is very simple, therefore the variations can be very complex. The building is a spiral staircase enlarged to the proportions of a house.
Then comes the spontaneity, based on precision, developing over several years. It can exist, since the design was incomplete when the building began. For example, we didn’t know how the balconies and stairs would come out, and other elements such as the wall, which I thought would support the stairs, actually shifted its function. Other elements, which did not even occur to me at the time, seemed indispensable later on.
When in Israel, Hecker lives across from the Spiral House in the Dubiner House, which he designed with his mentors (and later partners) Alfred Neumann and Elder Sharon in 1963. Principles from the earlier building linger on at the Spiral House; the inner courtyard, the staggering of the building’s levels which allows stepped open terraces, skyscape views, and also more banal views provided by the surrounding houses.
In both buildings, the geometric aspect of the design is of great importance; it dictates the division of the interior spaces, the position of columns, and the building forms. The primary difference is in the geometry; opposite a sharp angled building composed of many ribs stands a building with curved forms that derive their energy and rationale from the rotation of a spiral.
The construction of the new building opposite where he lives enabled Hecker to maintain constant and scrupulous supervision of the project. The ability to incorporate changes during construction is a central factor to Hecker, who feels the immediate and unexpected solutions found on the site are inconceivable at the planning stage. He prefers to make conceptual design changes and implementation on site.
The idea of using stone arose during the working process, and the addition of plaster to the stone created a surprising result. The difficulty in obtaining a straight wall forced Hecker to use so called ‘bad’ (raw) concrete, but when mixed with a very smooth plaster, it looks more like a sculpture than white plaster.
Hecker gave himself great freedom of expression by using materials associated with old and poor neighborhoods, not with a bourgeois suburb. (He was once told that the building looked as though it was created when a tornado swept through Ramat Gan and collected all the junk into one place.)
The decision to use cheap, thin pink stones (often found on the sides of falafel shops) on some of the walls, and pieces of mirror in the ceilings between the stones and on the exterior plaster walls, combined with the use of corrugated metal sheets, has created a unique building. The mirrors reflect the building’s interior, the surrounding trees, the light, and the sky. In some instances, the set in mirrors take on serpentine forms, a recurrent theme in Hecker’s architecture, which increase the building’s dynamism.
In the 1970’s, Hecker worked on the idea of a spiral building with the apartments grouped around a central, load bearing column within which all the service functions were located. In the Spiral House, the retaining column has been removed and replaced by an open courtyard.
The Spiral House deploys the principle of terracing typical of Arab villages where the roof is used as part of the living space for the apartments. The organization of the living spaces around an interior courtyard and the use of inexpensive, readily available materials are local components that compliment the geometric order based on a spiral.