Client: Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock Museum
Design architecte & museography: WILMOTTE & ASSOCIÉS
Local associate architect: Jacques ABOUKHALED
General contractor: BETABAT
Area: 8,500 sqm (existing: 1,500 sqm / new areas: 7,000 sqm)
Construction work: 2008-2015
Opening ceremony: 8 October 2015
Refurbishment, extension & interior design of the Surosck Museum.
In the elegant and upscale district of Achrafieh in Beirut, only as recent as a few years ago, there were still many 18th and 19th century villas and mansions. Built in 1912, the neo-Moorish Sursock Museum is one of the last remaining examples.
It was bequeathed to the city of Beirut by Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock in 1951 to be transformed into an art museum.
Brought up to standards and refurbished respecting the tradition, the Nicolas Sursock Museum has been given a makeover. Renovation, extension and museum design, delayed by the war in 2006 between Lebanon and Israel, are now completed.
This project has been designed along three main strands: refurbishment of existing buildings, construction of new spaces in the basement and gardens.
From the very first drawings in the early 2000s, a need for discretion seemed obvious, so that no trace of the future interventions would later be seen in the gardens. This led logically towards the development of an underground architecture.
Spaces, materials and colors nourish an underground architecture. The challenge was that visitors would never feel as if they were below the surface. The volumes were conceived to be important, with the temporary exhibition hall ceiling reaching a height of 7 meters. To enhance the visitors’experience, an overhead natural lighting was incorporated. In the rooms in which this was not possible, LEDs create a sensation of natural daylight. Pathways have also been designed to minimize the sensation of descending underground; the route is divided into split-levels, each of them showcasing pieces of art. The choice of a sand color stone from Egypt defined a range of tints from white to beige also helping reduce this sensation.
The garden’s plan has been realigned with the building entrance. A line of trees interrupted by paths restores symmetry and welcomes a contemporary concrete, metal and glass building, which houses a library, a cafeteria and a car lift. The esplanade in front of the museum is organized around a central path surrounded by six skylights. This mineral garden paved with stone hosts sculptures throughout the year.
After 7 years of intensive work, the Sursock Museum is fully ready to reopen its doors. On October 8th, it inaugurates its new spaces with a pictorial retrospective «A glance of Beirut: 160 years of images».