Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 9 December 2019

Inside a beautiful 19th-century home in Beirut that is being lovingly restored

Bayt K is under restoration by AKK Architects in an effort to conserve endangered architecture in Lebanon – and their ongoing work is up for an award

Perched within Gemmayzeh, one of Beirut’s oldest and most vibrant districts, is Bayt K, a traditional 19th-century Lebanese house.

It was built in 1870 for a prominent Lebanese family in the final decades of the Ottoman Empire, but has unfortunately fallen into disrepair over recent years.

This is why Annabel Karim Kassar (AKK) Architects swooped in to save the day. The practice, which has branches in Beirut, Dubai and London, first presented Bayt K (‘bayt’ being the Arabic word for house) in 2017 at the Beirut Design Week, as part of its Handle with Care exhibition.

The final goal is to fully restore the building, retaining its original features while transforming it into a contemporary family home.

“I was very much inspired by the contrast of the city and the many contradictions that have visually shaped the urban landscape over centuries,” says French-Lebanese architect Annabel Karim Kassar, founder of AKK Architects.

“The way I approached this project was dictated by the emotional landscape that surrounded it. The environment and the different layers of architecture the house sits in had a deep impact on my work.”

The restoration is still ongoing, but AKK is starting to see the fruits of its labour: Bayt K was recently shortlisted by the World Architecture Festival’s (WAF) Future Projects Awards, under the House category.

One of the most prestigious events dedicated to the architecture and development industry, this year has seen a 534-strong shortlist across its Future Projects and Completed Buildings categories, with areas such as experimental, leisure-led development, masterplanning, office, education, residential and health.

House, the category under which Bayt K has been nominated, also has two other Middle Eastern projects - Open House by Domaine Public Architects in Lebanon and The Cube House by Ahmed Habib – Lines in Kuwait.

The shortlisting is quite the achievement for AKK Architects, which eventually wants to see Bayt K become a foundation dedicated to the protection and conservation of endangered architecture in Lebanon, as well as a cultural and exhibition space.

The 700-square-metre property is arranged over three floors, and also has an enclosed garden. The ground floor is comprised of open-front shops, which would have been rented out to merchants back in the day, with the family residing above.

AKK Architects set about unifying the house, which previously consisted of two distinct apartments to create one large family room.

It had to give the house a modern makeover while retaining its traditional vibe. In the 19th century, when the house was built, people went to hammams to wash up – which means the plan didn’t include bathrooms. This led AKK to consider a fresh layout and the ‘interchangeability of rooms’, adding a hammam-like washroom to the reception room on the second floor.

“We wanted to play with the function of the rooms and make an interior which can mutate,” says Kassar.

Watch this space.

Updated: December 3, 2019 01:18 PM

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