I refuse to be labelled as an architect of the generation of war. I do not find interest in architecture as a war machine, nor in the war-torn building aesthetic,” says Lebanese architect Karim Nader.
He penned that in his 2020 monogram For a Novel Architecture, criticising the tendency to associate Beirut, which was at that time still reeling from the devastation of the Port of Beirut’s explosion that claimed hundreds of lives and billions in property damage, with ruins and abandoned architecture.
Karim chooses the optimistic approach. “Beirut should be architecturally represented as always alive, forward looking, because forward is the way of life.”
AT A GLANCE
Home: An apartment in Beirut, Lebanon
Size: 3,000 sq ft
Who lives here: A couple in their 30s
ID: Karim Nader Studio
This optimism is apparent in one of his recent residential projects, an apartment on the 20th floor of a residential tower that suffered damages from the explosion’s shockwaves.
The apartment had just been newly completed in 2020 when the disaster happened.
Karim rebuilt it in 2021 and the result is a stunning paragon of high modernism.
The apartment features a sweeping view of the Beiruti skyline and an abundance of natural light, so much that it needs a treatment to lessen the intensity of its exposure to the sun.
Karim balances the architectural shell’s grey cement flooring with primary colour accents – solid yellow, blue and red – and natural wood ceiling that softly mediate the two ends of the colour spectrum.
The overall aesthetic of the home pays homage to modernism, featuring clean-cut lines, unadorned surfaces and furniture designed by the who’s who in modernism itself, including Le Corbusier, Eileen Grey, Gerrit Rietveld and Alexander Calder.
Here, the furniture mark the transition between spatial functions.
The floor plan clearly demarcates the apartment into two zones, with one side dedicated for communal space, comprising a large, gallery-like reception room flanked by two dining rooms – one indoor and one outdoor, and one side dedicated to the office-cum-spare bedroom, and the master suite.
Connecting these two wings are the kitchen, the TV room and a moody narrow corridor finished in darker timber.
The art-filled corridor is conceived as a shaded mediator between the public and the private wings of the apartment.
The furniture is a mix of custom-designed pieces designed by Karim himself, and some of the most iconic furniture and objects in the history of design.
This aptly named Calder Revisit chandelier by Karim is a tribute to Alexander Calder’s mobile sculptures.
Throughout the house, Karim’s bookcase, table, console, and lamps, are paired with pieces like Le Corbusier’s LC4 lounge chair, Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona daybed, Jean Prouve’s Standard chair and Harry Bertoia’s Bertoia wire chair.
They are arranged harmoniously in clusters, with ample breathing space between them to facilitate smooth spatial flow in an otherwise stark open plan.
The homage to Piet Mondrian is palpable in the office and master bedroom.
The former features white and natural blonde wood furnishings with Mondrian’s signature grid motif, while the latter borrow the primary colour palette as well.
A corner in the office that doubles as spare bedroom, featuring Cassina Accordo table by Charlotte Perriand and Platforms bed by Karim Nader Studio.
The master bedroom’s centrepiece is the bedframe, constructed from minimalist planes in primary colours and aptly named Red Yellow Blue.
Karim pairs this custom bed frame with Jean Prouve’s Potence lamp for vitra and Gerrit Rietveld’s Zigzag chair for Cassina.
It’s safe to say that, judging by the design of this apartment, no one will be labelling Karim as the architect of a generation of war.
Photography by MARWAN HARMOUCHE