annabel karim kassar architects carefully renovates a 19th-century house in beirut

within the historical and colorful district of gemmayzeh in beirut, annabel karim kassar (AKK) architects has undertaken the careful restoration of a traditional 19th-century building dating back to 1870. the project, which is called ‘BAYT K’ in reference to the arabic word bayt for house, has been shortlisted for the world architecture festival 2019’s future projects awards under the house category.

annabel karim kassar architects carefully renovates a 19th-century house in beirut designboom

interior view depicting the grand aperture and a mock-up of the bookshelf staircase

image courtesy of annabel karim kassar (AKK) architects (main image © colombe clier)

originally built for a prominent lebanese family in the final decades of the ottoman empire, in recent times the house had been neglected and left to deteriorate. AKK architects became involved with their plans to transform the decayed building into a contemporary family home, which were first unveiled at beirut design week 2017 as part of the studio’s handle with care exhibition.

annabel karim kassar architects carefully renovates a 19th-century house in beirut designboom

image courtesy of annabel karim kassar (AKK) architects

annabel karim kassar comments: ‘I was very much inspired by the contrast of the city and the many contradictions that have visually shaped the urban landscape over the centuries. 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.’

annabel karim kassar architects carefully renovates a 19th-century house in beirut designboom

image courtesy of annabel karim kassar (AKK) architects

the house is built over three storys and covers a generous total floor area of 700 m2, with an additional 700 m2 garden at the back. the ground floor contains a shop space, which would traditionally have been rented out to merchants, with the family living in the upper two levels. the original building was orientated to face the north street-facing elevation, however, the new intervention by AKK turned this around to orient the spaces toward the south garden side. the south elevation has therefore been lovingly transformed with a contemporary golden façade, which was handmade by local lebanese master craftsmen.

annabel karim kassar architects carefully renovates a 19th-century house in beirut designboom

image © colombe clier

annabel karim kassar adds: ‘in the 19th century at the time the house was built, people went to the hammam to wash; for this reason the original plan didn’t include any bathrooms, which led us to really think about a fresh layout and the interchangeability of the rooms. for example on the second floor, to the most beautiful reception room will soon be added a hammam like washroom, while still maintaining its role as a salon. we wanted to play with the function of the rooms and make an interior which can mutate.’

annabel karim kassar architects carefully renovates a 19th-century house in beirut designboom

main reception room

image © colombe clier

inside, AKK architects strived to visually unify the interior to form one family home, as it had previously been split into two apartments. to achieve this, they opened up the center of the house and built a contemporary wooden structure, which doubles up as a five-meter, babel-like bookshelf staircase to connect the two levels.

annabel karim kassar architects carefully renovates a 19th-century house in beirut designboom

image © colombe clier

in order to retain existing architectural features and ensure the renovation was executed carefully, the architect enlisted a team of local and international specialists, including an architectural restorer, a conservator-restorer and architectural historian. incredibly, while digging for the technical basement to reinforce the foundations, AKK architects discovered byzantine and roman archeological remains ranging from the 2nd to the 5th centuries, which were integrated into the design of the garden.

annabel karim kassar architects carefully renovates a 19th-century house in beirut designboom

the north façade

image © colombe clier

annabel karim kassar comments: ‘we wanted to bring a feeling of transparency and fluidity to the house by letting the garden in and blurring the line between outdoor and indoor. to replace the old collapsed façade, we built an aluminium structure which spreads across the three levels and completely opens up, thereby revealing the triple arches of the ‘liwan’ and connecting the inside to the outside. the deck that we created to link the house to the garden also adds to this idea of flow.’

annabel karim kassar architects carefully renovates a 19th-century house in beirut designboom

the south elevation before

image © ibai rigby

the renovation project also marks part of a broader initiative. a section of the BAYT K house will become a foundation dedicated to the protection and conservation of endangered architecture in lebanon, as well as a new cultural and exhibition space for the city.

annabel karim kassar architects carefully renovates a 19th-century house in beirut designboom

the south elevation after

project info:

project name: BAYT K

location: gemmayzeh, beirut, lebanon

architect: annabel karim kassar (AKK) architects

principal architect and designer: annabel karim kassar

lead architect: rabih zeidan

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