APRIL. MAY 2011
CURVE MAGAZINE - DESIGN AROUND TOWN
ALCAZAR, AN INSPIRING FORTRESS
Beirut is a beautiful city in constant mutation. Due to the lack of a clear-cut urban framework, the city has grown to become a patchy architectural landscape, a kaleidoscope of old and modern structures, where old edifices, fragile and unprotected, slowly recede, gradually eroding the city’s memory… Gemmayzeh, and particularly Alcazar, are a wonderful example of that relentless struggle between ancient and modern architecture. Indeed, this stand-alone building embodied the perfect opportunity to preserve and to pay tribute to the memory of this old Lebanese house, which bore the stamp of the various transformations it has undergone throughout the years, while utilizing a contemporary architectural language.
It was a rather difficult task to convert such a space, which was divided by several load-bearing walls, into one open-space without altering its character: wall textures, vault, openings, etc. Moreover, the building being situated in a preserved heritage site (St. Nicolas stairs), it was even more complicated to design the front and rear facades and to create a harmonious construction blending perfectly in its setting.
The Alcazar project allowed rescuing this house’s obsolete walls, which were inevitably destined to demolition. On the ground floor, the bar, as well as the made-to-measure tables and stools were designed with visually smooth material, i.e. steel and wood, in order to draw attention to the irregular and rough texture of the walls. The original walls and openings were preserved so as to give guests a visual and spatial feel of the building’s various strata. A staircase was grafted onto the old structure and painted in red to highlight the old/new oxymoron.
On the first floor, the restaurant was designed with a revisited typological language allowing a clear interpretation of the different epochs of construction. The garden and rooftop terrace complete the scenery by offering a unique indoor/outdoor experience.
This project and its concept were inspired by the St. Nicolas stairs, which host an art exhibition every year. Alcazar was therefore intended to be part of that cultural and artistic event by converting it, for the duration of the exhibition, into an open gallery showcasing local artists. It was therefore envisaged as an event celebrating the neighborhood’s memory and cultural life through its continuous projection of old photographs and visuals. Alcazar insufflated a new life into lot 301 by presenting our architectural heritage to the new generation in its barest apparel.