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Monday, 15 March 2010

The recently completed Le Gray Hotel in Beirut is the last project I worked on with Kevin Dash. It is operated by Gordon Campbell Gray, who's behind the One Aldwych and several other high-end hotels. The hotel is in a conservation area with very strict guidelines governing the exterior appearance of the building down to materials, details and massing. The hotel takes its cues from UFA building next door, matching the facade lines and providing a modern interpretation of the older building allowing the building from outside to fit within the urban context.

The story is different on the inside, a large conical atrium creates a large internal space topped by a 'lantern', a suspended timber and glass cylinder housing a bar on the last floor. The atrium lines are defined by closely-stacked timber shelves giving it an abstract quality. The top floor provides generous roof terraces covered by a radial timber structure and provides the special spaces within the hotel. There is a restaurant, two bars, a gym, and a delicately-detailed swimming pool with an infinity edge looking towards the sea. The glass detailing allows for continuity between the internal and external spaces which the over-hanging roof emphasizes.

Towards the back, the hotel faces the 'Garden of Forgiveness', which is yet to materialise, revealing more of the 'lantern' and the roof structure. On the east side, the hotel overlooks Martyrs' Square and on the west it can be seen through the denser arrangement of French mandate-era buildings around Place d'Étoile. Together with the other buildings that I worked on with Kevin Dash in the SOLIDERE, Banque Audi Plaza and the Gold Souks, it's one of the more successful attempts at integrating the building within the urban context while animating the interior with bold spatial moves.

I took those pictures back in November when the hotel was almost complete, the landscaping around is still missing and somebody has stuck an extra mechanical room on top of the east facade because these things just happen in Beirut.

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