Hermit House is an earthen residence situated on the limestone cliff under Apollonia National Park overlooking the Mediterranean near the Sidna Ali Mosque in Herzliya, 15 kilometres North of modern Tel Aviv.
The Hermit House is an example of vernacular architecture. Vernacular architecture is architecture characterised by the use of local materials and knowledge, usually without the supervision of professional architects.
Its owner, designer, and creator, Nissim Kahlon, has been building the structure solely by hand since the late 1970s, tunneling deep into the cliff side and using natural sea materials.
The part fortress, part castle, part work of art structure includes dozens of chambers, both decrepit and beautiful, covered in highly elaborate tile mosaics made of recycled materials such as blue glass from broken beer bottles, plates, and other debris washed ashore. Local city authorities and residents have so far been unable to oust the non-code-compliant resident. Rising sea levels, caused in part by the city’s construction of a jetty, now pose a threat to Cachlon’s work of several decades. Hermit House’s exterior is publicly visible and requests for interior tours are occasionally honored by its owner.
In 1970 Nissim Kahlon decided to leave city life behind and begin a new life living on the beach. Kahlon first began building little straw beach huts, then wooden cabanas. Next, working with the intent to build something more substantial, he added mortar and stone until he had created a full-scale Stegosaurus-shaped home. He focused on excavating a maze of tunnels and rooms from the limestone cliffs, using only the simplest of hammers, picks, and shovels. He decorated many rooms with mosaics created from objects and recycled materials, mostly treasures thrown up from the sea – stones, coral, tires, bottles, and glass.
A film about his life and work, Apollonian Story, was completed in 2014 by filmmakers Ilan Moscovitch and Dan Bronfield on Vimeo.