Centrale: A stylish restaurant in Beirut, Lebanon
Centrale restaurant and bar was initially conceived by Architect Bernard Khoury in 2001 and housed in a 1920s residential structure under historical protection. At its opening in 2001, the project gained immediate success both locally and internationally. In 2013, it was time for the restaurant to reinvent itself.
With an acquired knowledge of the needs and preferences of its clientele, the owners of Centrale commissioned Maria Group with the redesign of the restaurant.
According to the architects: “The new interior design is driven by the idea that the existing iconic space should be emphasised in its architectural qualities, while the new intervention clearly identifies as an addition marked in time. The proportions of the internal space are preserved with the metallic cylindrical bar hovering above and the wire mesh panoramic elevator traveling the vertical distance.
“A platform finished with large planks of wood and framed in metal sits in the middle of the big hall, on top of the existing paving tiles, and keeps a distance from the existing walls: the gap is highlighted with indirect linear recessed LED lighting. The platform now provides a levelled surface for the dining area.
“Panels of stretched translucent fabric with frames in black lacquered steel are positioned against the existing walls: they reveal the distribution of the windows on the original facades and hide acoustic paneling that resolve the sound qualities of the monumental main hall.
“On one of the long walls, a panoramic image appears from behind the fabric, reminiscent of 17th-century Dutch still life paintings, reviving the memory of the old table that was in the restaurant in its initial form.
“It is a photo showing a feast spanning the 4 seasons and animated by elegant figures. It has been conceived for the restaurant, on its premises, on a table that is now used as a ‘table d’hôte’. Eight photos are fixed, as light boxes, to the back of the stretched fabric panels, and the image appears floating behind.
“The original architect was invited to the photo shoot and figures in the ‘winter’ scene, thus ensuring a continuity in the history of the design of this place.
“On the platform, the floor lamps which are custom-designed for the restaurant create a low horizontal and intimate level of lighting that breaks with the verticality of the space. The fully articulated lamps can be adjusted to allow for various table layouts.
“The white table clothes were selected to reflect the light that is directed at them from the floor lamps. Dining chairs are re-editions of the iconic Finn Juhl chair: the quality of the workmanship that shows on the wood of the chairs, the details of the connections, the comfortable seat all suggest a luxurious yet understated feel.
“In the secluded area, all finished in strips of solid matt walnut, a suspension in polished copper – with recessed accent lights – hovers above a single slab wood table.
“The strips of wood continue on the volume of the staircase and line up both walls and ceiling to suggest an ethereal ascending movement. Vertical posts in steel with hidden light line up the corners of the walls at each landing.
“Today, the iconic restaurant is open with a revived identity that preserves the memory of the former space.”
Images courtesy of the designers
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