Focus: Stereo Kitchen, Beirut

Once a playground for the jet set, war-torn Beirut is rising from the ashes, aided by this rooftop venue

Words by David Tarpey

Although the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Travel Advice page advises against visiting several regions of Lebanon (including south Beirut), the country’s capital has an indomitable spirit. Still occasionally subject to heinous Islamist terror attacks (Daesh killed 43 civilians there in two bombings the day before the massacres in Paris last November), it has a determination to thumb its nose to extremists and rise like a phoenix from whatever mayhem tries to engulf it.

The legacy of the 15-year long Lebanese civil war was to leave a shattered, rubble-strewn city in 1990. Yet during the Fifties and Sixties this was a jet-set playground of luxury beach-resort hotels, nightclubs and fashionable restaurants hosting the likes of Brigitte Bardot, Omar Sharif, Peter O’Toole and King Farouk of Egypt.

Once again, following intermittent violence, Beirut is eager to develop its party-town side. Stereo Kitchen bar and restaurant is situated on the rooftop of an office building, can accommodate up to 120 people, is described as a ‘versatile entertainment venue’ and has been designed by local practice Paul Kaloustian Architect. It aims to attract weekday fine dining and a club clientele at weekends.

The roof-top bar and restaurant commands spectacular views over Beirut. Photo: Joe KesrouaniThe roof-top bar and restaurant commands spectacular views over Beirut. Photo: Joe Kesrouani

Beirut-based design and manufacturing firm PSLAB worked with the architects on the concept and fabrication of a ceiling that would reflect the space’s versatility and emphasise its open plan.

The indoor space consists of a circular glass pavilion overlooking a 360-degree panoramic terrace, and is designed to allow for maximum transparency by eliminating visual obstructions. The ceiling follows this theme by housing an unobtrusive system of lighting, climate control and sound systems. Made of demountable V-shaped perforated steel modules with a natural steel finish, the ceiling consists of 200 elements. Each of these had to be measured on site and cut to size for installation, as the ceiling had to be tailor-made to fit perfectly, because the space sports a circular glass membrane.

The ceiling also contains recessed lighting fixtures, each appropriate to whether the venue is operating as a club or restaurant. But it is also meant to enrich the context spatially. Due to its perforated triangular sections and varying height clearances at different points, the ceiling functions as a venue for human interaction. It takes on a sensory role (alongside its mechanical function) that people can approach, touch and feel. Creating this type of relationship between people, spaces and objects alongside vivid sensorial experiences is a major trademark of PSLAB.

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