AKK Architects, an architecture practice founded by architect Annabel Karim Kassar, with offices in Beirut, Dubai, and London, is transforming a historical 19th-century Lebanese home into a contemporary family home. Bayt K was shortlisted for the WAF future projects awards under House category.
The large-scale renovation of the historic house was first presented in 2017 to the public, part of AKK Architects’ Handle with Care exhibition. The project features a “full restoration of the building, retaining the original features while transforming it into a contemporary family home”. The Bayt, or house, is a structure built in 1870, during the Ottoman Empire. Located in one of Beirut’s oldest neighborhoods, the 3-story traditional house was neglected in recent years.
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
Consisting of a ground floor rented out to merchants, in direct relation to the street, and 2 floors for residential purposes, overlooking the street and garden, Bayt K will “become a foundation dedicated to the protection and conservation of endangered architecture in Lebanon as well as a cultural and exhibition space”. Part of a bigger vision, 700 sqm of floor space, with an enclosed 700 sqm garden to the rear will undergo a series of restoration works, with the collaboration of a team of local and international specialists, including an architectural restorer, a conservator-restorer and architectural historian.
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 facade, we built an aluminum 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
Originally oriented towards the street, AKK’s proposal reorients the project “to the South side, which benefits from a clearer view, by rethinking the rear façade and opening it to the garden”, resulting in the creation of a “contemporary golden facade, handcrafted by local Lebanese master craftsmen, which radiates as the sun shifts through the day”. During the reinforcement works, underground, discoveries of Byzantine and Roman archeological remains ranging from the 2nd to the 5th centuries, were made. The project integrates these findings into the topography of the garden, generating a succession of steps with the stone elements, for example.
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