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Case study: Cedar tree forests inspired new resort in Beirut by HBA

Case study: Cedar tree forests inspired new resort in Beirut by HBA

Dubai-based HBA Designers infuse Lebanese culture, history and landscape into the design narrative for Kempinski Summerland Hotel & Resort Beirut.

Taking inspiration from the cedar tree forests and places of cultural significance, like Mount Lebanon and the Byblos ruins, the Dubai office of Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) designed the interiors of the newly opened Kempinski Summerland Hotel and Resort Beirut in Lebanon. The 153-key waterfront resort is located in the heart of the historic city and features a collection of locally-produced art that is both contemporary and rooted in the country’s heritage.

David T’Kint, lead HBA designer and partner, explains that the various aspects of Lebanese culture were applied to the interior design, taking into consideration that the resort was built on the grounds of the famous Summerland Hotel, the only resort that was opened during the Civil War.

“The client’s expectation was that the property needs to set a new standard for luxury in Beirut, as well as live up to the reputation of the old Summerland Resort, which has been part of multiple generations’ lives,” says T’Kint. “We opted to do so by exploring Lebanon’s cultural heritage, creating a narrative unique to the property. We spent time exploring the country to depict what makes it unique in ways which are understated.”

Lobby and lounge area

At the hotel’s entrance, beige flooring has been cut to include a Rub el Hizb pattern, with the eight-pointed stars, derived from the traditional Muslim symbol.

From the top of the nearly 10-metre high ceiling, a water wall flows, capturing the essence of ancient ruins. On the right side of the lobby, the walls are fully clad with grey wood celebrating the cedar tree forest. Wood planks of various widths capture the texture and natural form of the celebratory tree in Lebanese history, and intricate arabesque motifs are carefully etched into several wood planks.

The hotel also features an original, contemporary art collection by Lebanese artists living in the country or abroad, creating an emotional link between the interiors and the location.

“Since the opening a few weeks ago, I received multiple comments about the layering of the property and how there is a story behind most items. Some of these include the overall colour scheme using mostly neutral, beige tones similar to an aerial view of the city. In the arrival lobby, the walls feature elements of Lebanese ruins, such as Byblos, and engraved grey walls are inspired by cedar tree forests, the emblem of the country. There are also figurines all throughout the hotel, which symbolise the Lebanese diaspora and the constant movement of the population in and out of the country. These are complemented by some of the carpet designs in the corridors where we used deep blue and bright yellow,” says T’Kint.

A 23-foot-tall chandelier constructed of clear and amber-toned glass spheres reminiscent of the Lebanese diaspora hangs in the lobby.

“The interior façade features dozens of figures perched on the guard rails supporting the same concept,” says T’Kint. Carved screens between seating areas pay homage to traditional practice and create semi-private retreats. Grand arches are raised above individual seating arrangements, creating a secondary layer within the space.

The lobby bar is wrapped in a Mashrabiya-inspired screen, modernising a traditional Arabic architectural element. Surrounding the bar is a casual area with small seating arrangements accented by scattered rugs in warm teals and browns, also reminiscent of the cedar tree and Lebanese sky.

The lobby lounge features low beamed ceilings with insets of woven textures, resembling the country’s architecture and fishing culture. These features were, in fact, a result of solving the major challenge the design team faced, which was adhering to local regulations regarding the ceiling heights. In a few areas of the hotel, ceiling heights had to be as low as 2.15 metres.

He adds: “We had to be creative with the usage of lighting and mirrors to avoid an oppressive feeling in these spaces.”

A staircase that leads guests below to the bar and all-day dining is adorned with a handrail inspired by the branch of the cedar tree. Each landing represents a body of water with an infinity edge detail to create the sense of walking through the water between spaces.

Bar and all-day dining

Rich colours of burgundy and teal throughout the bar reflect the country’s vineyards and winemaking culture, while reflective finishes push the boundaries of volume within the small space.

The ceiling features insets of oval mirrors creating a sense of lightness and continuity, and walls are sculpted with two types of carved screens backed by light and mirrors to support this effect. Metal and wood screens with arabesque patterns create layers within the bar and delight the senses. The cigar lounge housing an expansive library of high-end cigars and accessories also resides within the space.

Inspired by mint – a key ingredient in Lebanese cuisine – the interiors embrace the freshness and lightness of the herb, engaging the colours of green and teal against a beige background. The ceiling is wood-planked in white and grey while upholstered wall panels are accented by carved white architectural screens in decorative patterns.

Ballroom and function rooms

According to T’Kint, the ballroom is designed as a white box adorned with arabesque patterns engraved into the walls and ceiling. Hues of white and warm colours are juxtaposed by cool grey tones, giving it a neutral backdrop for various event types. The carpet is heavily patterned in grey biomorphic designs and is complimented by elegant draping chandeliers in similar shapes overhead, made of crystal and laser-cut metal.

“For the ballroom carpet, various shades of grey translate different scales of Arabic patterns as Lebanon is at crossroads between Europe and the Middle-East. Most countries in the area traditionally use arches in their architecture; we used the typical Lebanese shape to create a series of seating nooks in the lobby lounge,” adds T’Kint.

Guestrooms and suites

Guestrooms are decorated with a combination of strong lines and geometric patterns, with architectural lighting highlighting the feature wall above the headboard. Furniture handles are derived from the seed of the cedar tree and are a continuous element throughout.

The bathroom has a combined shower and tub in carved beige stone. Light slots are adorned with a glass Mashrabiya pattern recalling the screen design on the bed.

The presidential suite includes a signature feature within the ceiling: a reclaimed piece of architecture retrieved from the old Summerland building and integrated into a contemporary new design. All of the walls in the dining area and lounge are fully clad in wood and sculpted with both small and oversized patterns. Hand-woven carpets inspired by the texture of cedar tree bark are a backdrop to elegant arabesque patterns. Mother of pearl inlays appear in small details of archways and furniture. The bedroom and bathroom are a key feature of this suite giving it a level of ultra-luxury and comfort, with a freestanding tub and oversized bathroom increasing the sense of grandeur.

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