One of Lebanon’s most celebrated architects, Bernard Khoury, does not just talk the talk, but puts the money where his mouth is with cutting edge designs that at once blend in and stand out. Plastik* asked him about the state of architecture within the rapidly changing landscape of modern day Beirut. A pretty picture?
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How do you feel stepping into the footsteps of, for example, Anthony Hopkins as the face (and feet) of Johnny Walker?
I don’t believe that I am stepping in the footsteps of the great people you mention. Watching my own steps is hard enough for me.
“I was told my ideas would never see the light of day and that paper was the only place for them …” you say in the commercial.
What is your advice to a young designer or architect?
Architecture requires a lot of patience and a deep understanding of the environment one decides to operate in.
The first project to put you on the Lebanese and international map was BO18. That was in 1998. What does BO18 mean to you today?
The B018 project was recuperated and circulated in ways I could have not expected initially. I am very happy to see that a project that had a life expectancy of 5 years is still alive and kicking 13 years later…
For a number of years, you only did an occasional project, yet in recent years several projects a year, both in Lebanon and abroad. What changed? Did the world finally come to understand Bernard Khoury?
Architecture is a very slow profession. It takes years and many successful completed projects to become credible in the eyes of those who commission projects…
Can you tell us a bit more about a particularly exciting project you are working on at the moment?
I like to think that all the projects we work on have their own particularities…We have many in the pipeline at the moment.
In general, what makes good architecture?
Good architecture is relevant architecture.
Can architecture be considered (an) art?
Depending on how you define “art” ...
It seems Beirut just cannot stop building. What you think of the average level or architectural design that is being put on display?
I am very disappointed with the architectural quality of most recent buildings in our city. My father’s generation did much better.
What three buildings in Beirut, other than your own, you particularly admire?
The Interdesign building in Wardieh square. The former “Schemes” building on Spears Street that houses a “Kokache” showroom. It is time we re-visit many of the 60’s buildings in Beirut before it is too late.
How important is preservation for a city, and what does it take for Lebanon to start doing so?
The preservation of a city starts with a collective understanding of the history of the place. The problem with contemporary arab societies in general is their inability to formulate their own history.