In 1955, upon his return to the island as a young graduated architect, Ahmet Vural Behaeddin was assigned with his first job; to design a residence for a family with three children and a clinic for Dr. Selçuk Sömek within 4 acres of orange orchards in the picturesque town of Lefke. The clinic, integrating an entrance hall, a waiting room, an examination room and a study room in its body was designed to face the street whereas the residence was concealed on purpose to create privacy for the householders. The study room is connected to the rest of the house via a hall attached to the kitchen, yet such a detail does not exist in the original drawings of the architect. It might be possible that the interlocking kitchen hall was a modification proposed by the owner during the construction of the building.
At the entrance of the residence, there is a permeable fringe inviting one into the open courtyard, defined well by the garage and the residence block. The eaves detail over the entrance door-usually left half unlocked during the day-continues along the garage creating an inviting semi-open entrance space. The first door to the left of the entrance hall leads to WC and kitchen. Although the inner hall where all the daily activities take place is partitioned by a latticed timber panel, it is more like an extension of the entrance hall, where one finds a passage to the kitchen hall that accommodates a staircase for reaching the roof and a door that directly opens to the dining room. This interlocking space is almost like a private hall meant to be used only by the occupiers of the house. From the inner hall, there is an entrance to a room through a wide cast iron door. In this rectangular shaped room, the entrance space is used as a dining room and the rest of the space is left to accommodate the living room. On the longest side of this room, there is a striking chimney that addresses to the whole of the space.
The inner hall extents to a semi open terrace via a folded cast iron door. Due to the easily folded transparent door, this space is almost like a continuation of the terrace or the terrace is almost like a part of the house. Similarly, this relationship is constructed between the large rectangular living room and the semi-open terrace in the same manner through a folded transparent cast iron door. Consequently, the users enjoy the benefits of these entire three spaces -the inner hall, the semi-open terrace and the living room coming together as one single space. The flow of space from the entrance courtyard to the semi open terrace and the notion of transparency is worthy of notice (Fig. 6a-b-c).
On the left of the inner hall lies a corridor that links the bedrooms to the rest of the house. The passageway is used merely on one side where almost similar sized three bedrooms are aligned along its length; on the other side there is a bathroom at the entrance, which further leads to a small laundry room. The corridor is lit by small windows and a transparent door at the far end to give a vista of the back courtyard, which is used for drying clothes. The back and front courtyard is connected to each other with a timber door that seems to be the only transparency along that elevation. The passageway, the bathroom, and the laundry room are kept at the minimum height; and the strip windows above the passageway are designed to allow cross ventilation of the high-ceiling bedrooms.
Construction:The Sömek House is a single storey, flat roofed building, originally built as a concrete framework construction with double skin walls of which window and sunspace openings are aluminum and iron profile respectively. The entrance door, internal doors and floor coverings in the bedrooms and living room are all made of solid timber whereas the daily rooms are covered with linoleum based floor tiles for ease of use. Owners have stated that timber floor coverings and wallpapers were imported from Germany during the construction of the building. Although the timber floor in the living room has now left its place to ceramic tiles due to obligatory reasons, the wallpapers are still carefully protected reflecting the modernist taste of the period. The open spaces around the house are well defined by profiled screed floor covering. The clinic’s exterior wall as the closest façade facing the street, external walls displaying a continuity between inside and outside and some vertical elements defining the exterior spaces are either covered with natural stones collected from the region, local red bricks, or coated with plaster and paint. Windowsills and casings encircling some of the windows are mosaic poured on the site.
Context:The house is located 1-1.5 m above the street level and is reached by a rampart originally thought as a traffic pocket off the main road. The remaining site from the house or the semi-open or open courtyards defined by the house is abandoned to a dense green composed of orange and flower orchards. The house is located within a residential area where buildings are usually situated in large gardens as either single or two storey high elements, well defining the street they sit on. Amongst these houses, the Sömek residence is worth the attention with its extraordinary setting on the site where the clinic and the house are specifically designed to stand away from the street as much as possible. This is achieved by the existence of the large open courtyard in front of the house, approached by a cast iron gate. Such an interesting formation gives passerby the chance to notice and perceive the house from a distance.
The building is located along the north-south direction. Although the living room and the bedrooms are sited on the southern façade, they tend to be very cool during the hot summer months due to the existence of the dense orange orchard and the semi-open terrace. The kitchen and the operation room are located on the northern plane whereas the waiting room is open to the morning sun.
Sömek house can be interpreted as one of the important material artefacts reflecting architectural and social history of the island in the modern period. Its design elements and principles, which base on international and local idioms, were synthesized through the filter of modern discourse. Thus, Sömek house remains a transitional image between past and modern periods of the island and let the development of modern Cypriot house particularly in the Turkish Cypriot community.