Bernard Khoury rehabilitates historic Gyumri Theater into a digital media learning hub

The Lebanese practice of architect Bernard Khoury sensitively intervenes in the existing remnants of the theatre to design the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies in Armenia.

by Zohra KhanPublished on : Mar 01, 2022

Bernard Khoury is an architect of contradictions. The founder of Lebanese practice DW5 is recognised for his serious (and seemingly apocalyptic) architectural visions, particularly those coming from the war-torn landscape of Beirut. A strong advocate of exceptions, Khoury has over the last 30 years delivered sensitive yet poetic work addressing precarious territories. One of his most recognised project is the coffin-shaped B018 nightclub – a deep subterranean night spot evoking our collective memory to an extremely problematic past of the site. Built in the Karantina area near the Port of Beirut, the grounds of this hip entertainment project - often referred as catastrophic and absurdist - are also the location of the 1976 Palestinian massacre. For Khoury, the project which evoked his own memory of witnessing the camp burning in flames, encapsulated a political stand in a relatively unserious space, such as a club. A testament to the project's sucess stays in the fact that though the building was initially meant to be a temporary project, 14 years later, it still remains there in that catastrophic landscape, eliciting the same flurry of emotions that Khoury wanted to communicate.

The main students zone is designed inside the former hall with the idea of a theatre with a pivoting stage | Armenia | Bernard Khoury | STIRworld
Terracotta red volumes designed by Bernard Khoury are added to the historic remnants of the Gyumri Theater Image: Ani Avagyan

A key thread in Khoury’s multi-disciplinary practice is the experimentation with history and about raising a tabula rasa condition. An example of this practiced trope comes across in the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies from Armenia’s climate ravaged city of Gyumri. Built inside the Gyumri Theater – an important landmark of the city located in a largely residential neighbourhood. The 1850s site, surrounding countless dilapidated structures and a few protected buildings, has survived two major earthquakes and several alterations to accommodate programs ranging from a People’s House during the Soviet times to a local television broadcasting centre. The reason the site was popular was because it was once home to an opera house with a characteristic architectural language that attracted visitors from far and wide.

  • The project encompasses rehabilitation and expansion of the Gyumri Theater in Armenia’s historic city of Gyumri | Armenia | Bernard Khoury | STIRworld
    The project encompasses rehabilitation and expansion of the Gyumri Theater in Armenia’s historic city of Gyumri Image: Ani Avagyan
  • The old and the new sit together in harmony | Armenia | Bernard Khoury | STIRworld
    The old and the new sit together in harmony Image: Ani Avagyan

Khoury was tasked to mend and expand the building into a digital media learning hub comprising interactive learning platforms and performance spaces. A key consideration in the project was the sensitive restoration of the building's original features, in addition to creating a meaningful dialogue of the new programmes with the cultural fabric of the city.

Stairs leading to the ground floor roof which acts as a common gathering space | Armenia | Bernard Khoury | STIRworld
Stairs leading to the ground floor roof which acts as a common gathering space Image: Ani Avagyan

Delving into the design from outside-in, the façade of the building reveals a characteristic dialogue between the past and the present. In the 2500 sqm centre, Khoury has restored the theatre’s southern and eastern frontages of local turfa stone construction and white plastered finish. The other facades and new additions are painted in a vibrant red colour. The exterior materiality thus creates a defining point of contrast between the old and the new.

  • The striking mirrored underside of the canopy reflects the imagery of the surrounding environment | Armenia | Bernard Khoury | STIRworld
    The striking mirrored underside of the canopy reflects the imagery of the surrounding environment Image: Ani Avagyan
  • A closer view of the terrace  | Armenia | Bernard Khoury | STIRworld
    A closer view of the terrace Image: Ani Avagyan

The spaces within the 2475 sqm centre are distributed across its four storeys, and classified in four focus areas, namely animation, video game development, digital media, and web development. Khoury’s interventions address the challenges of the original architecture which included tight spaces and low ceiling heights. The programmatic layout proliferated the student spaces on the ground floor whereas all public facilities such as the main lobby, administration and public theatre are designed on the upper levels. Access into the students zone is via the eastern façade at the lower park level, and that of the public zone is through the roof of the ground level, connected along the western façade. This roof is a distinguished space of the centre that acts more than just a space of transition, and rather an element that bridges the architecture with its context. Nestled under a towering canopy with mirrored underside, one could see the activities of the space below – comprising an arch, bar and a common gathering space - reflected on the roof from afar.

  • The main students zone is designed inside the former hall with the idea of a theatre with a pivoting stage | Armenia | Bernard Khoury | STIRworld
    The main students zone is designed inside the former hall with the idea of a theatre with a pivoting stage Image: Ani Avagyan
  • The space leading up to the main students co-working area | Armenia | Bernard Khoury | STIRworld
    The space leading up to the main students co-working area Image: Ani Avagyan
  • A smaller co-working space with Tumo Center for Creative Technologies | Armenia | Bernard Khoury | STIRworld
    A smaller co-working space with Tumo Center for Creative Technologies Image: Ani Avagyan
  • The institution involves educators and media professionals who help students explore and produce creative content and media applications through real-life projects  | Armenia | Bernard Khoury | STIRworld
    The institution involves educators and media professionals who help students explore and produce creative content and media applications through real-life projects Image: Ani Avagyan

In the interiors, the space for screenings and performances for students take form inside the ground level’s former 200-seat opera theatre. Inspired by the grandeur of its precedent, the former hall has been converted into stepped theatre with a pivoting stage that could double as a larger co-working space, 3D printing lab, and a recreational digital hub.

The permeating red of the spaces as well as the structural additions that have been grafted to the historic fabric elicits a certain seriousness, perhaps a mixed bag of exhilaration and deep remorse. Much like what each of Khoury’s projects, from his sharp and rebellious oeuvre, effectively manages to do.

  • Ground Floor Plan | Armenia | Bernard Khoury | STIRworld
    Ground Floor Plan Image: Courtesy of DW5
  • Mezzanine Floor Plan | Armenia | Bernard Khoury | STIRworld
    Mezzanine Floor Plan Image: Courtesy of DW5
  • First Floor Plan | Armenia | Bernard Khoury | STIRworld
    First Floor Plan Image: Courtesy of DW5
  • Plan at Cinema Level | Armenia | Bernard Khoury | STIRworld
    Plan at Cinema Level Image: Courtesy of DW5
  • Section | Armenia | Bernard Khoury | STIRworld
    Section Image: Courtesy of DW5

A result of the collaboration between Khoury's DW5 and the centre’s team of local artisans and engineers, the project employed homegrown building techniques including specific masonry works, as well as local manufacturing of structural components and furniture pieces.

Project Details

Name: Tumo Center for Creative Technologies
Location: Gyumri, Armenia
Project Type: Institutional
Status: Completed 2020
Built-up Area: 2,475 sqm

Comments

Comments Added Successfully!

About Author

Recommended

LOAD MORE
see more articles
3279,3201,3346,3233,3300

Keep it stirring

get regular updates SIGN UP

This site uses cookies to offer you an improved and personalised experience. If you continue to browse, we will assume your consent for the same.
LEARN MORE AGREE