Annabel Karim Kassar restores Ottoman mansion in Beirut to preserve architectural past
Beirut-based Annabel Karim Kassar (AKK) Architects, founded by French-born Annabel Karim Kassar, has announced a restoration project of a nineteenth century Ottoman mansion in Beirut, with an aim to preserve Beirut’s architectural past.
During Beirut Design Week, the architects will showcase a temporary exhibition, taking place on the ground floor of the mansion on the city’s central Rue Gouraud street. The exhibition will detail the methodology of the project’s design and renovation. It will also offer survey drawings, photos, models and materials and techniques used at the time of the building’s construction in 1870.
Visitors will be able to view the first reconnaissance of the renovation work in process by examining architectural details. The renovation is scheduled to be complete within a two-year time frame.
“The theme of Beirut Design Week 2o17, ‘Is Design a Need?’, inspired us to think not of the future, but of the past,” said Kassar. “In order to grow, we need to be connected to our roots. The aesthetics of the Ottoman-era-its scale, elegance and craftsmanship- permeate the consciousness of the Lebanese people.
“To allow this memory to decay is to lose part of who we are. I very much hope this project will inspire others to preserve the historic buildings we have in this beautiful city,” she added.
The mansion was formerly built for a prominent Lebanese family in the final decades of the Ottoman Empire, arranged over three floors with a floor space of 750m2.
The ground floor is comprised of open-front shops which would traditionally be rented by merchants, while the family resides in the two remaining spacious stories of the building, overlooking the street and gardens below.
“We aim to rescue and protect a rare example of nineteenth century Beiruti architecture,” said Kassar. “To my mind, this is an important counter-cultural move in an era which has seen a self-effacing wave of modernisation sweep the capital.”
A number of restoration specialists to work on the project. Nathalie Chahine is an architectural restorer who will be working alongside the architects. Other specialists include Doris Shäffler, an engineer and photogrammetric specialist who will produce detailed plans of the building; conservator-restorer, Aurelia Badde; while German engineering firm Ziegert Roswag Seiler Architekten Ingenieure will restore the structural integrity of the mansion, making it safe for daily use.
The architects will also be working with Dr Ralph Bodenstein, who is an expert in architecture, architectural history and art as well as with specialist local artisans who will be commissioned to
restore the building’s spectacular ceilings, screen windows, frescoes and staircases.
“We will be meticulous in our preservation of the building’s fabric. There is an art not only in the restoration of historical features, but also in unobtrusively reinforcing the building and installing modern services such as water and electricity,” Kassar said.
“However we are not creating a museum; the completed space will be presented with an original take on modern living, with rooms arranged and furnished in a contemporary way. It is important to me that we show not only the beauty of the historical architecture, but how well it can exist alongside our modern lives.”
Last year, Kassar was the recipient of the London Design Biennale Medal 2016 for the most exceptional design contribution. She has been a resident of Beirut for the past two decades.
In 2015 in Milan, the architects recreated a typical Lebanese living room using old cameras. The firm has also designed the Al Zorah pavilion in Ajman, UAE, inspired by the dunes of the desert.