Villa Dolunay-Foster + Partners: Norman Foster defines a Rippling Silhouette on Villa Dolunay along the Aegan Sea’s Coast

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Samuel Nguma

Samuel Nguma is an Editor for Archute. He enjoys taking long walks and reading short stories. He is an ardent lover of architecture which he studied at the University of Nairobi.
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Foster + Partners, an internationally renowned architecture firm with more than 1,500 staff members in 13 global studios, doesn’t typically undertake private villa projects. However, when they do choose to participate in such projects, they consistently outperform expectations. This is proven by Villa Dolunay, which beautifully showcases the firm’s exceptional expertise. The villa, situated within the raw, untamed scenery near the Aegean Sea in Kaplankaya, makes for a rapidly growing point of interest for tourists in Muğla province, southwestern Turkey.

Appointed by the client in 2015, a design team led by Niall Dempsey and Ignacio Diaz Raya, worked painstakingly to craft a home that would act as a sublime backdrop for the breathtaking sea horizons, creating a tranquil refuge from the bustling city life.

The site is accessed off of a main arterial road that leads to the Six Senses Kaplankaya Hotel and Residences. A winding dirt road to the north of the villa teases the approaching visitor by denying a full appreciation of the unassuming entry facade. The design ensured that the approach and arrival experience is maintained at a human scale by laying out the building to follow the natural contours of the site.

From the entrance, Villa Dolunay is bashful, disguising itself as a single story structure. From this vantage point, there seems to be more garden than house, with the architecture taking a back seat. To create a rich multi-sensory experience, the landscape designers employed the use of thyme, lavender as well as other luscious seasonal fragrance plants dotted amongst mature indigenous olive trees to cast a spell of a traditional Mediterranean locale.

The architects describe the building as a journey from ‘opaque to open’. The opacity starts to dissolve at the entrance lobby, where an unbelievable view of the Aegean is framed when a pair of asymmetrical pivot are swung open. The deep blue and green hues of the sea and distant natural hills beyond contrasts well with the foreground framing of the dressed limestone, overhanging engineered timber ceiling and dark rounded columns.

This entrance hall is the epicenter of the villa, acting as a pivot for the V-shaped plan layout, delineating the private family quarters to the east and the more public living and dining functions to the west. This orientation helps the building respond to the natural terrain of the site, whilst affording spectacular views of the setting sun to the public spaces.

There are four luxuriously sized bedrooms on the first floor level, with deep suspended balconies that extend opportunities for private retreat and relaxation. Two of these bedrooms have their balconies facing the panoramic views, while the other two face private gardens on the east and west of the house.

The crowning jewel of the entrance lobby has to be the feature staircase which offers a grand way to access the lower ground floor level. This staircase is curved from solid Portuguese limestone and thanks to post-tensioned cables running within it, appears to effortlessly stand on its own with no visible support. To add to the purity of this majestic feat and the overall feeling of lightness, thin tubed glass balustrades support a curvilinear timber handrail.

The rough textured limestone feature walls extend from the outside to define both sides of the trapezoidal space that fans out towards the garden. Shades of blue, orange and green are infused in this space by a massive art piece that is placed along a timber-clad hallway brings the natural themes of the view ahead within. Other than a sculpture of a defiant roaring lion that echoes the structural glory of the staircase, the space is sparsely furnished to maintain an air of lightness.

The narrative of blurring the boundaries between indoor and outdoor living continues on the lower ground level where large double height glazed door slide open to offer unobstructed flow of movement between interior and exterior activities. From the garden, one can fully appreciate the smoothly undulating structural timber roof that was designed in collaboration with Swiss timber maestros Blumer Lehmann.

The design team preferred this prefabricated and precisionengineered structure because it ultimately contain less carbon than a traditional concrete roof, hence attaining the high sustainability standards that the project called for. Structural oak beams within the roof rest on rounded steal columns that support an impressive 7.5m cantilever that provides generous outdoor shaded areas for outdoor activities.

The lower ground floor features an interconnected living area on the western side with a combined living and dining furniture that offers variety of entertainment styles. To add to the imbued elegant coastal feel, a retrained palette of oak joinery complimented with leather furnishings is used throughout the space to relaxed the senses.

The living area is abutted on its rear end with a large kitchen, a private entertainment room, powder room and cloakroom as well as a large double height dining atrium; and it is flanked on the opposite end with a large swimming pool with sunken seating and a custom-made limestone sculpture.

The eastern side of the lower ground floor has one bedroom supported with a large bathroom suite and a spacious walk-in-closet. Next to the bedroom, there’s a home gym that opens up to the garden area. A private staircase and lift behind the gym offer secondary access points from the private wing on the first floor. But it is the open to sky shaded courtyard at the back of the bedroom that is an unexpected surprise, filling this wing with natural light from above.

Villa Dolunay reflects the extraordinary levels of craftsmanship with every element being designed to respond to specific client requirements. This ranges from the hand-carved solid timber doors that are used throughout the interior, to bespoke ceramic tiles and wash hand basins in bathrooms. Influenced by various tones of warm browns and grays found in the rocky outcrops and sandy beaches of the site, the interiors blend stone, wood and bronze.

Towards the coast, the architects incorporated a sunset pavilion amongst the olive groves. The simplicity of the overhead bamboo soffit and glazed balcony railing of the sundowner perfectly frames the view; and perfectly encapsulates the essence of Villa Dolunay.

Project Information

Architect: Foster + Partners

Location: Kaplankaya, Muğla, Turkey

Design Team: Niall Dempsey, Ignacio Diaz Raya

Architect-of-Record: Design Group Istanbul, Artiko Architects

Structural: Design Group Istanbul, Matte Construction & Design

Environmental: Okutan Mühendislik, Ankara

Landscape: Exterior Architecture, Jan Muse Landscape Designers

Lighting: Foster + Partners, Design Group Istanbul

Area: 1 668 sqm

Height: 7.60 m

Status: Completed, 2019

Photographs: Nigel Young, Foster + Partners

Photo of author

About the author

Samuel Nguma

Samuel Nguma is an Editor for Archute. He enjoys taking long walks and reading short stories. He is an ardent lover of architecture which he studied at the University of Nairobi.
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