The work of the Lebanese company, Carl Gerges Architects, considers tradition, context, and culture. As we think about how we will live in the future, our solutions as architects and designers must adapt to our culture, setting, and tradition. The widespread pandemic, many lockdowns, and a greater appreciation for nature have all served as a reminder of the importance of owning a cozy, well-appointed home.
We concluded that we had not created a market for locally accessible resources due to Lebanon’s depreciation of our currency. Instead, we mainly employed imported building materials, which were applied without considering context and history and have now become prohibitive. Last but not least, a threatened and damaged historic city fabric has been further wounded by the catastrophic explosion in Beirut, leaving it at the mercy of real estate developers.
The path to the future involves embracing a fresh perspective on design and architecture that works on a more human scale and tries to account for and maintain each project’s relevant social, environmental, and historical components. The modern world needs innovations that can be sustained appropriately, not merely another brand-new structure.
Villa Nadia and Batroun Boutique Hotel are two unbuilt projects. Comparatively, Cana Guesthouse and Villa Chams are two projects that showcase the fusion of architectural tradition and contemporary design, informed by a poetic sensibility and a thorough understanding of the local social, environmental, and historical landscape.
Cana Guesthouse in Bhamdoun, Lebanon
Cana Guesthouse is located in Bhamdoun, Lebanon, at the center of ancient rock formations that formerly held Phoenician graves. The entire area is covered with a patchwork of grey and yellow limestone that has withstood erosion for millennia. This sturdy retaining wall creates a distant, antique façade paired simply with natural granite boulders.
A warm lodgeable cavern with a living room and kitchen is unexpectedly discovered while entering this dry stone monolith, which is flooded with sunshine. The indoors and outside are seamlessly merged by the earth-toned walls surrounding pivoting glass panels that swing open to the nearby rocks.
The inn constructs an enticing underground passageway with exact measurements that leads to wine storage. This burgundy vaulted cube, carved out of the rocks, has a synesthetic and elemental atmosphere. A circular skylight illuminates it. It makes logical sense that the low lighting and chilly, wet air that smells like toast, oats, and musk go well along with the primordial quiet.
The structure is a solitary circular fire pit at the base of the enormous granite. Flames provide magical evenings and festivities as they mesmerize against these enormous rocks and faraway mountains.
The resort is surrounded by a lush 80-acre vineyard, softening the monotony of the dry stone. A rocky terrain encourages vines to develop deep roots that draw water and nutrients below the earth’s surface, giving the wine a more decadent fragrance. This well-kept and fragrant orchard evokes images of a peaceful country retreat.
This sanctuary promotes a physical and mental retreat while conjuring reflective and starry murmurs from a distant time and place. It is a stone monolith that is both tremendously intimidating and warmly inhabitable.
Villa Chams in Baalbek, Lebanon
Villa Chams, which is located in Lebanon’s most isolated and historic natural landscape, embraces the uniqueness of its surroundings, including the local flora and ancient Roman temples, and positions itself as a melodically elemental storyteller.
This single-shelled building appears to be grounded horizontally and gently, merging with the nearby vegetation, including opuntia, olive trees, and other plants, against a background of distant mountains. A closer look reveals randomly spaced columns and walls choreograph a rhythmic movement on a coarse grid, producing both enclosed rooms and open extensions.
The rough terrazzo floor of the pool, combined with local mineral particles, has a grounding effect and soothes the feet. The water cascades down concrete columns like a river before gently stopping at the edge of some rocks and revealing views of the sky, nearby flora, and far-off mountains.
Rooms are naturally equipped with stone, light, levels of view, and walls made of poured earth concrete, generating an earthy sensory balance. The music and reading room is recessed a level lower into the earth, further obscuring the purpose of the space and providing an unobstructed view of the outside from eye level.
The bathroom is surrounded by a floor-to-ceiling rock and contrasting smooth sound reflecting walls, enhancing the relaxing water acoustics. A skylight only lights the bathroom.
The living aspect of this home is further demonstrated by the materials, which are purposefully permitted to deteriorate and change color over time gradually.
This architectural environment gains additional dimension from Baalabek’s seasonality. While cool, mysterious evenings may be spent stargazing by the fireplace surrounding the heated pool, dry, bright days can be savored in shady locations and among cooling rocks. This home, which touches on all earthly elements, was carefully created to evoke emotions of peace and harmony with nature’s numerous sensory layers for a severe retreat.
The Batroun Boutique Hotel in Northern Lebanon
The Batroun Boutique Hotel project is a renovation of an older building from the 17th century. The structure, which is in Northern Lebanon, was painstakingly rebuilt using sandstone that was obtained locally and handcrafted wood shutters, keeping the period-appropriate cross-vault design.
A white cement addition that houses a café and connects the two original buildings has an internal courtyard with an Ottoman-inspired center pond. Throughout the project, greenery is employed to connect the various buildings and create a specific look.
Botanical images influence color schemes, and the landscape and vegetation choices, which are crucial in determining the location’s ambiance, are carefully considered.
Carl Gerges Architects’ designs promote coziness by respecting fine craftsmanship and regional building customs.
Carl conveys history with a personal sense, retaining the rich past that permeates the place and atmosphere of each project.
He generally embraces the individuality of his surroundings and shows himself as a melodically elemental storyteller since he sincerely believes in authentic and earthy design.
Rhythm, proportion, and harmony are the fundamental building blocks of the underlying code that determines how architecture and music are related.
In addition to being rhythmic and sequential, which makes it compositional, the main facade of the building also adheres to a musical principle: randomly spaced walls and columns arrange a rhythmic flow on a coarse grid, resulting in both enclosed areas and open expansions.
“For me, every project is a unique love story, an adventure that can take you on various paths. Given the particular aspects of each site, context, and requirements, it is almost impossible to have the same creative process every time I start a new project. When I get commissioned to work on a new project, I spend long periods of time analyzing the site, understanding its history, its geographical qualities, and the trajectory of the sun.I wanted to introduce, through my architectural gesture, a melodic element that would add another dimension to the harmony of the site and that would tell a story.”-Carl Gerges
ArchDaily. 2022. Building on the Past: Get to Know The Work of Carl Gerges Architects. [online] Available at: <https://www.archdaily.com/964685/building-on-the-past-get-to-know-the-work-of-carl-gerges-architects> [Accessed 15 July 2022].
Archello. 2022. Cana Guesthouse | Carl Gerges Architects | Archello. [online] Available at: <https://archello.com/project/cana-guesthouse> [Accessed 14 July 2022].
Sood, P., 2022. The rhythm of architecture – Interview with Carl Gerges – DesignWanted. [online] DesignWanted. Available at: <https://designwanted.com/carl-gerges-interview/> [Accessed 15 July 2022].
Architizer. 2022. Villa Chams by Carl Gerges Architects. [online] Available at: <https://architizer.com/projects/villa-chams/> [Accessed 14 July 2022].
Youtube.com. 2022. [online] Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5Cf6Ar7nSw> [Accessed 15 July 2022].