By Galal Mahmoud Architects
A HISTORIC LEBANESE INSTITUTION
A benchmark in the Lebanese art of hotel experience, Hotel Le Bristol - Beirut is distinguished by its elegant and sophisticated spaces.
A meeting place for heads of state and the Middle East’s kings since its construction, the building became a landmark in the life of the Lebanese people who came to find shelter during the 1975 war.
The Hotel Le Bristol, a top of the range, five star establishment, with 151 rooms, closed its doors in June 2014 for renovation. Two years later, on the eve of its 65th anniversary, this Lebanese institution will be reborn under the vision and expertise of Galal Mahmoud, founder of GM Architects.
Major restoration work has been carried out, in particular on all the rooms and the shared spaces – with the addition of six new rooms and its infrastructure. The renovation seeks to modernise the style and décor of the hotel while preserving its authentic, vintage and luxurious style, as well as maintaining the standards of the quality of services provided. Its reopening in June is one of the biggest events for the Lebanese capital in 2015.
A HISTORIC LEBANESE INSTITUTION
1951, Beirut - Rue Madame Curie, with the gentle swish of silken ball gowns, the tinkling of champagne cups and the laughter of Lebanese socialite women, the mythical hotel Bristol was inaugurated, symbol of luxury and modernity.
A benchmark in the Lebanese art of hotel management, this institution is striking in its elegant, resolutely sophisticated spaces. Le Bristol housed the first ever skating rink in the country. It was the source of inspiration for the finest interior designers of the period such as Jean de Royère, and, with its Mashrabiyas and woodwork, we recognise the signature of Tarazi.
Oriental arts and crafts were subtly married to the style of the 50s which is evidenced by a liberation of forms and colours, as well as Western influences.
Le Bristol then became the place to see and above a place for one to be seen. A meeting place for kings and heads of state, visitors of that time could have met King Hussein of Jordan or the Shah of Iran in the corridor.
In 1975, during the civil war, Le Bristol remained a central location in the life of the Lebanese and became their refuge. As an indefatigable witness to the history of Beirut, this Lebanese institution continues to keeps pace with the history of the Lebanese capital and its evolution.
A RENAISSANCE WITH A MODERN CHARACTER
Galal Mahmoud’s background has always been closely linked to this location. As a child he used to accompany his father, whose offices were next to Le Bristol, at the famous café “Gourmandises” at the entrance to the hotel.
It is therefore very natural that his practice: Galal Mahmoud Architects should have been chosen to carry out the renovation of the shared spaces and of the 151 rooms in this exceptional place, a “real challenge” for its founder.
THE SHARED SPACES
The welcoming elegance of the lobby sets the tone. The floor is resplendent with the famous draughtsboard motif in black and white marble, while the walls are dressed in grey wood and white pearl tones embellished with dots in petrol blue and old rose for the furniture. The natural light blends with that of the candles, creating a warm atmosphere. The lobby has been redecorated with resolutely contemporary lines, and has been restructured around elements of the decor of the period, such as the reception desk in black Walnut, or the old paintings from the Bristol’s private collection.
As a more intimate extension to the lobby, the famous Salon Oriental bears witness to the incredible history of this hotel over the decades of its existence. Galal Mahmoud wanted to preserve the Damascene woodwork unchanged, which dates from the 19th century, installed during the time of the construction of the hotel in 1955 by Emile Tarazi. Only the chairs and sofas have been re-upholstered in warm colours in homage “to the romantic orientalism of that time”, as emphasised by Galal Mahmoud. “Gourmandises”, the famous café located at the entrance to the Bristol, is intentionally and resolutely voluptuous and welcoming. With strawberry red, citrus yellow and green, circles in acid colours decorate the walls, with an allusion to the macaroons in the café shop window which Galal Mahmoud loved so much when he visited it during his childhood with his father.
At Le Bristol, the very concept of a hotel room itself has been reconceived by Galal Mahmoud, who has re-named the rooms according to three themes: “Oriental”, the “60s” or “Modern Classic”.
The innovative organisation of the volumes, the choice of colours and materials offer the traveller a sense of evasion and well-being upon their arrival in the room. Whether the guest wishes to rest, have breakfast or work at the glass desk in the “60s” rooms, the space and use made of it is entirely theirs.
In the “oriental” rooms, we find the two major guiding themes of the GM Architects practice: restfulness and well-being. With the warm colours and design, Galal Mahmoud creates a soothing and relaxing environment. The furniture and lighting by the Lebanese designer Nada Debs constitute the straight line between the history of the location and modernity.
THE MULTICULTURAL AND CONTEMPORARY APPROACH
TO “WELL-BEING” OF GM ARCHITECTS
The GM Architects practice, with its expertise in luxury tourism,specialises in the creation of top end hotels and resorts. It is one of the largest architectural practices in Lebanon. This office of 40 professionals, architects and interior designers, is managed by the architect Galal Mahmoud, in collaboration with three partners, Randa Chahine, Anwar Hajj and Elie Waked. The practice offices, in Beirut and Abu Dhabi, have an international reputation. Their completed projects have been built in France, Africa, the Middle East and throughout the Mediterranean basin.
With a specialism in interior design in the luxury sector, the Galal Mahmoud practice has expanded its skills, incorporating interior design, exterior architecture and designs for the enhancement of seaside sites. The practice, which is increasingly sought after for large-scale projects, provides full management and is resolutely developing its expertise on an international scale. The practice is currently working on the creation of a Sofitel in Morocco, a Sheraton Resort in Dakar, as well as the creation of three private resorts in Mykonos
GM Architects is the only Middle Eastern practice referenced by Accor, Rotana, Starwood and Rezidor, for the quality of its services, the appropriateness of its choices and the capacity to deliver a project that meets the requirements of the major hotel chains in terms of international standards. Its creative approach to projects expresses the singular philosophy of the Franco-Lebanese architect Galal Mahmoud.
The Museum of Civilizations, designed by GM Architects and presented at the Venice Biennale in 2014, has been nominated at the World Architecture Festival in Singapore in the category “Future Project of the year”. The project is the winner of the “Cultural Regeneration” category of the 2015 Architectural Review MIPIM Future Projects Awards.Given his multiple origins, Galal Mahmoud naturally adopts a multicultural perspective in all his creations. His capacity to sense the spirit of place and to capture the diversity of influences involved enables him to instil into each project an overall vision that is also contextually authentic.
The “contextual immersion” approach is thus at the heart of the philosophy of the GM Architects practice. For each project, Galal Mahmoud immerses himself in the geographical, historical and cultural context of the site. Using these elements of contextual reference, he reinterprets them according to a contemporary approach and language, at the same time always ensuring respect for the identity of the culture of the location.