Spectacular house built on the ruins of a torture hell-hole

Spectacular house built on the ruins of a torture hell-hole: Lebanese prison where captives were flayed with whips and electric cables is transformed into modern home

  • Coined ‘The House with Two Lives’, the property is located near the Lebanese village of Bois de Boulogne
  • Previously damaged by gunfire and shelling, it had been occupied by assorted military during the Civil War
  • The renovation cost more than $10m and took seven years to finish, with 120 people working on the project
  • The stylish new three-storey home boasts an indoor pool, art gallery and home theatre

Beautiful images have revealed a stylish new home raised from the ruins of a house that was taken over by the Lebanese military above the Beirut mountains and used as a torture and detention centre for 28 years.

Striking shots show the original building before the war, at the end of military occupation and the 22000-square-foot new property being built on the site. 

Coined ‘The House with Two Lives’ by Lebanese design practice Nabil Gholam Architects, the property is set within a stunning site surrounded by a pine forest near the mountain village of Bois de Boulogne, in Lebanon.

The stunning exterior of the beautiful new home raised from the ruins of an ex-military torture and detention centre

Pictured, the original house in 1947 before the Lebanese Civil War started. The property was later seized by the military

After Nabil Gholam Architects was asked to renovate the structure – originally built as a resort building in the 1930s – the firm took its time to sensitively pick apart the site’s history and breathe new and positive life into the property.

Costing more than $10 million over the course of seven years, a total of 120 people were involved in the renovation which was completed in 2013. 

Boasting a total of 21,000 square feet, the new three-storey build includes an indoor pool, art gallery, home theatre and a balcony offering spectacular views of the mountains.

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‘Fought over at the outset of Lebanon’s wars – the town straddled an important frontline – it had developed a bloody reputation. 

‘Damaged by gunfire and shelling, it had been occupied by assorted military and militia forces and was used for 28 years as a torture and detention centre.

‘We were facing a house with its splendor past buried in memory,’ added Nabil Gholam Architects. 

The building works of the original house before it was seized by the military during the Lebanese Civil War

The brand new renovation showing the modern patio entrance to the dramatic indoor swimming pool

A picture of the original house taken in 1975 at the beginning of the Lebanese Civil War and military occupation

The cantilevered balcony overlooking the pine forest near the Lebanese mountain village of Bois de Boulogne

Climbing plants and vines surround the garden entrance to the newly renovated three-bedroom house

The walls of the house were covered in graffiti and scratched with messages of resistance. The architect house reported finding whips and other torture devices such as electric cables when visiting the property.  

‘The secret service had burnt all archives leaving the walls covered in black ashes. The house tells the story of psychological resilience and architectural defiance. 

‘A sort of Pandora box turned into a pearl inside a sea shell. It celebrates the triumph of life over death.’

‘The house was gutted, reinforced and turned into a ‘shell’ into which a ‘new home’ was inserted,’ added Nabil Gholam Architects.

One of the bedroom windows featuring a modern mezzanine surrounded by stunning views and lush greenery

The home’s large indoor swimming pool featuring a stunning view towards the mountains in the distance

Sunk into the landscape, the house blends into its surrounding by camouflaging itself with the rusty colour of the local stone

A view surrounding the new property, which incorporates stacked and perforated bronze Corten steel-clad boxes

‘The series of stacked and perforated Corten steel-clad boxes invades the empty shell and projects beyond it to create new living envelope. 

‘The skin is punctured with dots echoing patterns of trees trunks in memory of the people that had fallen on site, just like the pine trees which were systematically cut down during the house occupation.

‘The house today celebrates the triumph of life over death and tells a quiet story of thorough restoration where memory and future meet serenely,’ said Nabil Gholam Architects.

The Lebanese Civil War lasted for 15-years between 1975 to 1990 and was later replaced by Syria’s military presence who used it as a prison and security base.

‘People used to drive by and not look at the house,’ said the home’s owner, Philippe Jabre, to the WSJ. His brother lost his life when attempting to defend the house from Syrian army invasion in 1976.

‘When the Syrians finally left, it became a pilgrimage house for people to show their families where they’d been jailed.’ 


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