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Architectural Vision

07.01.21

Architectural Vision

Successful architecture should be emotive, explains Tarek Ibraham, the multi-award winning architect and founder of Paseo. Julia Millen caught up with the Lebanese architect to find out more

What route did you take into architectural design?

I chose to study industrial engineering in Byblos’ Lebanese American University (LAU). However, after my first year, I decided it wasn’t for me. Some of my friends were enjoying the architecture component of their degree, which encouraged me to transfer and I’ve never looked back. I instantly fell in love with the discipline; fascinated by the concept of turning ideas into reality, a whole new world for someone to live in. I describe being an architect as a 21st Century wizard – our work shaping human identity, the way we live and setting the story of our culture and country in stone.

How did your upbringing in Chouf shape your passion?

El Chouf is known for its architecture. The surrounding Lebanese mountains are rich in history and culture. I was particularly inspired by the Spanish and Portuguese teachings, as their history is similar to ours and this is reflected in my work.

What sets you apart?

To date, I’ve designed several buildings, one of which is a factory and the others are houses, villas, residential buildings, and a mall. All of which were different experiences, but each has a different narrative and a modern solution to a problem you didn’t know existed.

Can you give us an example?

When working on a nine unit apartment building in Beysour, we wanted to give residents the impression that they were living in a separate house, so that each resident is able to enjoy privacy. We achieved this by ensuring seven of the apartments have separate entrances where the resident can park their car to enter the apartment directly. The other two apartments share a stairway; however, they are completely separate and don’t even have a wall in common.

You recently won the German International Excellence in Architecture award, can you tell us which project led to this accolade?

The judges appreciated the merit of my buildings’ identity as classical examples that would stand the test of time. It was essential for them to see a new school of thought develop amongst the Lebanese who come from a country that’s rich in culture and heritage. The project’s name - extension of identity merges the spirit of old and contemporary architecture that was implemented in 2018.

The award followed an accolade I won in Italy where I presented the same project; a villa I designed and built in Ainbal in the Chouf District of Mount Lebanon.

I was amongst winners selected from 50,000 participants chosen from an initial pool of 100,000 applicants. I was invited to present my project in front of an international jury that judged my ideas and I was excited to challenge myself. The competition included global participants from many countries including China, Japan, Germany, Italy, and Spain who have a long-standing all of which have a strong history in groundbreaking architecture. Through this award-winning building, Lebanon received the honor of being on the wall of excellence all over the world.

How would you define Beirut’s classic and modern buildings?

My age does not qualify me to give an evaluation, but sometimes, I am sorry to see what I see. The problem is that some copy designs, and when they do so, it’s not even pretty. Eyes are inspired, they steal. But when they do, they have to beautify, to add. There is a grand mall in Beirut that is a replica of an international football stadium that is considered a masterpiece designed by a famous firm. The replica of it in Beirut wasn’t even done properly.

Another problem is the way some architects believe people to be residents in a matchbox. This has several psychological repercussions on our citizens and our society. It translates into gloom amongst city residents, and a lack of joy, effectiveness, and productivity.

I believe that the way we live in our houses and workplaces affects our emotional wellbeing. Stairwells, for example, feel like a ditch during wartime. Our buildings also reflect the way we live in a big lie. Owners of Villas, buildings, and apartments all want the exterior of their houses to be extravagant and huge with trumpery and pillars when the indoors are completely different. This reminds me of the way social media portrays people to be at their happiest when deep down they are miserable. Eventually, architecture reveals the reality of its society.”

How do you think we should preserve ancient buildings?

It would be incredible to select a neighborhood with many original ancient structures and ensure nothing is changed; only restored. This would enable us to keep an accurate account of the way our ancestors lived.

Did winning international awards pave the way for work opportunities overseas?

Yes, after I won the Award of Excellence in Architecture at the Kotinos International Awards 2018. It was the first year the award had launched in the Middle East and it was hosted in collaboration with the United Nations, and SAND. The award evaluates the architect’s concept, implementation, and the way it improves the quality of life for its residents. Following this, I was offered work in Oman, Dubai, Cyprus, and Egypt. I aspire to grow the practice, so that it’s easier to work locally and abroad simultaneously, travelling to set up new projects and then work on them from my base here. We have many talented individuals in our country and I’d like them to assist me with my artistic vision for the future of Lebanon, whilst being exposed to different cultures rather than migrate.

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