Niemeyer Guest House Renovation / East Architecture Studio

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Niemeyer Guest House Renovation / East Architecture Studio

The Niemeyer Guest House Renovation / East Architecture Studio - Interior Photography, ConcreteThe Niemeyer Guest House Renovation / East Architecture Studio - Interior Photography, Facade, Chair, BeamThe Niemeyer Guest House Renovation / East Architecture Studio - Interior PhotographyThe Niemeyer Guest House Renovation / East Architecture Studio - Interior Photography, Chair, Column+ 21

The Niemeyer Guest House Renovation / East Architecture Studio - Interior Photography, Concrete
Courtesy of EAST Architecture Studio

Text description provided by the architects. Tripoli is a coastal city located in northern Lebanon, historically and culturally associated with its pioneering wood craft industry. Since 2010, the sector has suffered a dramatic deterioration, fueled by political unrest coupled with a growing emergence of cheap imported furniture.

The Niemeyer Guest House Renovation / East Architecture Studio - Image 13 of 21
Map – Site

Tripoli is also home to the Rachid Karami International Fair designed by Oscar Niemeyer in the early sixties. The construction of the Fair was interrupted by the Lebanese civil war in 1975 and unfortunately never fully functioned as such.

The Niemeyer Guest House Renovation / East Architecture Studio - Interior Photography, Chair, Column
Courtesy of EAST Architecture Studio
The Niemeyer Guest House Renovation / East Architecture Studio - Interior Photography, Facade, Chair, Beam
Courtesy of EAST Architecture Studio

The renovated Rachid Karami International Fair Guesthouse, now serving as an integrated design platform, is a single-storey structure, located at the southwestern end of the Fair’s main entrance. The ground floor of 2500 m² rests on a partial basement.

The Niemeyer Guest House Renovation / East Architecture Studio - Interior Photography, Table, Windows, Beam
Courtesy of EAST Architecture Studio

Overwhelmingly opaque in appearance, the Guest House surprises with its light-flooded interior space, an open floor plan punctuated by a central courtyard. Its seemingly ornamental floating roof rests on four columns and abstracts the underlying “horizontal” space. Exposed concrete dominates the upside-down guesthouse, however, the deliberate use of stone on some interior walls, an uncommon practice in Niemeyer’s work, introduces a vernacular sense to the interior.

The Niemeyer Guest House Renovation / East Architecture Studio - Interior Photography
Courtesy of EAST Architecture Studio
The Niemeyer Guest House Renovation / East Architecture Studio - Image 14 of 21
Axonometric drawing
The Niemeyer Guest House Renovation / East Architecture Studio - Interior Photography, Beam
Courtesy of EAST Architecture Studio

We were asked to mingle with a fundamentally introverted building.

Our intervention naturally took into account the aforementioned characteristics, deliberately revealing and above all enhancing the “DNA” that makes up the structure. The vast open plan revolving around the central courtyard has been conceptually preserved but divided programmatically into a series of spaces to meet the needs of the desired platform. Defined by a series of lightweight steel and glass partitions registering the rhythmic structural grid of the ceiling, the spaces connect to each other and to the courtyard. Light, shadow and transparency reverberate through a playful rhythm of fixed and functional panels, allowing for opening or segregation where needed.

The Niemeyer Guest House Renovation / East Architecture Studio - Interior Photography, Column, Beam
© Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Cemal Emden

The proposed material palette and color tones have remained true to the state in which we first encountered the building – in its unfinished concrete gray color – reminiscent of the fairgrounds. The resilience of concrete as a material, but also as a color, lends a sense of timelessness and austerity to the incomplete city in which the building resides. We have intentionally embraced this timelessness and introduced ‘monochromatism’ as an integral part of the design intervention: ceilings, walls, floors, millwork and metal frames, all predominantly gray, help reveal original interiors in weightlessness of the building, blurring the thresholds between inside and outside.

The Niemeyer Guest House Renovation / East Architecture Studio - Image 21 of 21
Front elevation before and after

Paradoxically, the programmatic use of the new space is ephemeral. Used as a design platform and prototyping facility for the next three years, the guesthouse may one day return to its original use. It is this paradox that made our intervention reversible over time: the light partitions, the lights and the machinery could be removed, leaving room for another program that would take over; however, the integrity of the original design intent would remain intact.


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