The Aga Khan Award for Architecture brings light back to the forgotten Rashid Karami exhibition

She got 6 projects including “Niemeyer Hospitality”

The vast majority of Lebanese who visit the Rashid Karami International Exhibition in Tripoli do not know the existence of the Niemeyer Guest House, which the Aga Khan Award listed among the projects that won its famous award for architecture for the year 2022, located in a distant environment. place from the garden of this great project. The famous Brazilian designer Oscar Niemeyer, and it was built in the sixties of the last century to be a permanent exhibition for the whole region and not only for Lebanon. And the deteriorating conditions of the civil war came in the seventies, leaving the project without activation, and its scattered buildings within its singing garden, despite its creative importance, forgotten and neglected. This prestigious award came yesterday to highlight the legacy of the late talented Niemeyer in Lebanon.

The six architectural projects awarded 2022 (Aga Khan)

The Aga Khan Award has announced the six winning architectural projects for this year, with a combined award of $1 million. It is one of the biggest architecture awards given to communities to realize their ambitions, make more innovations and care for the environment.

In addition to the Niemeyer Guesthouse at the Rashid Karami International Fair, built by Niemeyer and renovated by the Lebanese engineering office “East Architectural Studio”, we find on the list of award winners, “Urban River Spaces” in the town of Al-Junaida ( Bangladesh), and “Banyuangi Airport” International, Plimping Sari East Java (Indonesia), “Argo Museum of Contemporary Art and Cultural Center” in Tehran (Iran), “Kamanar High School” in Thionk Isil (Senegal), “Community Spaces in response to the Rohingya refugee crisis”, Cox’s Bazar District.

The building consists of one ground floor in the shape of traditional Arab houses (East Architect Studio)

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, and at a meeting in February 2022, the Independent High Court selected 20 projects from a pool of 463 nominated for the award cycle.

The victory of the Niemeyer Gastehuis comes at the right time, because the exhibition project, including this house, is today on the UNESCO table, to study its file and will probably be inscribed on the World Heritage List.

And this prestigious architectural award that Lebanon received, while it is experiencing its worst crisis, does not go to the Brazilian architect Niemeyer, who God passed away years ago and left behind “Brasilia” and his wonderful designs, and this project in Lebanon, but to the office of “East Architectural Studio” and its brilliant engineers Nicolas Fayyad and Charles Kittaneh, who restored the visitor building inside the gallery after it had been used as a warehouse for years, rusted by moisture and neglect. The two engineers worked especially carefully on this one-story building, which was originally a hotel and guest house, and to receive the exhibitors who had to spend the night.

The restoration was keen to respect the privacy of light reception and distribution (East Architect Studio)

According to the architect Wassim Naghi, president of the Mediterranean Union of Architects, who became a specialist in the file of the “Rachid Karami International Exhibition”, the restoration of this building took place due to the need for it to become the headquarters of the “Manjara” project, which aimed to encourage traditional artisans and help them reposition themselves in the market.

The building consists of one ground floor, in the form of traditional Arab houses, without exterior windows, as if it were a dull cement rectangle. There is a courtyard inside, open to the sky, and on one side, specifically on the eastern side, stand 14 rooms, the hotel rooms, which have not been used at all, and their windows open to the courtyard and lead them light from it.

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture lists Niemeyer Guest House among its winning projects for 2022 (East Architect Studio)

The two engineers did not tamper with the elegant design, which is very simple, and its importance in the horizontal columns that cover the ceiling and leave spaces for the infiltration of the required amount of light, at every time of the day. Engineer Fayyad says: “The restoration was keen to respect the privacy of light reception and distribution, as well as the importance of leaving the space suitable to change its function at any time.” As for the engineer Kettaneh, he points out that the majority of the budget was spent on the rehabilitation of the damaged work of Niemeyer, and that the new intervention was based on respecting the basic idea and vision for which the building was designed. Engineer Naghi claims that the restoration of the building has remained fragmented, and that this award will simultaneously highlight a very important and neglected project in Tripoli, and allow talented engineers to complete the restoration of this visitor building, especially its 14 rooms. .

The house was built by Brazilian designer Oscar Niemeyer in the 1960s (East Architect Studio)

UNESCO considers the Rashid Karami Gallery an “architectural masterpiece and a symbol of urbanization and civilization in Lebanon. It has an important economic value.”

The guest house is located within the exhibition project, which covers an area of ​​two million square meters of the city of Tripoli, on which there is approximately 120,000 square meters of built-up space, including an open theater surrounded by a dam that can be filled with water so that the theater floats, in addition to a large exhibition hall without columns and this is its charm, and a theater Experimental, space museum, premises for housing staff who presumably manage the exhibition, helipad and other buildings.

A side of Niemeyer Guest House in Tripoli, Lebanon (Aga Khan Foundation)

Will the Aga Khan Award bode well for Tripoli and its exhibition, a forgotten architectural masterpiece?


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