by Pooja Suresh HollannavarFeb 14, 2023
"From afar, the architecture resembles a sailing boat," says Lebanese architect and musician Carl Gerges' eponymous studio of their latest project, the Capo Boutique Hotel and Resort. Mediating a dialogue between the mountains and sea of Batroun — a coastal city in northern Lebanon and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities — Beirut-based Carl Gerges Architects designed Capo Boutique Hotel and Resort in the cascading terrains of one of the oldest ports of Lebanon. Beholding the historic impressions of the land of Phoenicians, master sailors, and expert celestial navigators, the hospitality architecture, inspired by the Mediterranean landscapes and its tales, aims to pay homage to the land’s history.
In the architecture encompassed in five levels, the first level introduces visitors to Capo through a front yard with delicate plants such as reeds, grasses, and evergreen cabbage palms, mostly seen in arid regions. Imbibing an animated sense of regionalism through the landscape design, the architects make the hotel design resonate with its surroundings. The landscape spaces gradually transition to enclosed architecture, through the corridors shaped in wooden pergolas and timber columns. The design character of the corridor holds a unique place in the architecture and is repeated in other outdoor spaces as well. A walkway visually connecting the entrance of the site to the seashore breaks the linearity of the built structure asymmetrically, creating two volumes housing the different preliminary functions of the hotel such as entrance, reception, and indoor dining areas. With a series of sculptural cacti and fabric shading, the stone-laid walkway frames the distant shore and reinstates the significance of the sea and sky in the design. Across the first rectangular built volume is an outdoor space complementing the transitional design character of the corridors. Overlooking the sea from the site's highest point, this space also hosts an outdoor pool. From a semi-open garden reflecting the aridity of the region to enclosed architecture in sandy tones and an open space overlooking the vastness of the sea, the design oscillates between contrasts of open and enclosed spaces.
Following the introduction to the concealed horizon of the sea is the second level which hosts the accommodation units. In symmetrical balance, two rectangular volumes mirroring each other are separated by a passage of steps that connect the different levels. With bedrooms and bathrooms accompanied by small courtyards and private outdoor spaces with a pool, the accommodation units are an intimate experience of the surroundings through design. An array of vegetation creates privacy for the outdoor area of each room by creating a tropical wall. In similar functionality, the third level also hosts cottage units for guests. Occupying larger areas individually, the spatial planning of the cottages mimics each other and follows repetition in scale and proportion.
Following the private levels, the fourth layer hosts public activities including outdoor dining and recreational activities. With the fifth level hosting a large pool area and related spaces, the fourth level becomes the last zone for built structures. Through the different descending terrains, the architects reinstate their conceptual approach, "the main protagonist is omnipresent." Even when spaces curl into indoor experiences, the other side opens to a wider datum encompassing the sea. In an orderly unravelling of spaces, the Lebanese architects transform the circulation of design into a journey, exploring, and widening the horizon at every turn of the waterfront project.
The interiors of the hotel, even when trying to contrast the architecture, follow a similar language through its minimal and contemporary interpretations. Through a monochromatic palette that revolves around unique materiality, the line between the outdoors and indoors blurs. Talking about their approach to interior design, the architects remark, "From afar, the hotel suites blend with the landscape. Upon closer inspection, the interiors are sleek, monochromatic, and understated with a clean finish, and the colossal sliding doors invite expansive sea views inside."
While the architects mention the design to be "architecturally reminiscent of a Roman amphitheatre, using classical symmetry and intricate detailing," symmetry and balance appear to be redeemed in an indirect sense. The form counters the irregularity of the site through a balanced intervention of solids and voids that appear to blend with the natural context. Adding to this play are materials in the palette of beach sand and cement, reflecting warm golden hues off the shoreline. With the coming together of materiality and geometric volumes, the Capo Boutique Hotel and Resort emerges from the site as an extension of a modern sand castle. Narrating the concept of the project, the architects share, "The symbolism is not lost on Capo, aptly named "Captain" - invoking ancient Lebanese civilisations in one of the world’s oldest ports – and creating an open dialogue between our ancestors, the stars, the sea, and the present moment."
The architecture of Capo begins in the warm hues of the sand and concludes in the blue vastness of the sea, steered through the transitions of the natural landscape and man-made enclosures. However, in the flow of spaces that lead to a destination, visually close but physically away, movement becomes a voyage and an experience. Throughout the design of the Capo Boutique Hotel and Resort, the architects seemed to have created an organic spatial experience through a contemporary adaptation of hospitality design in coastal regions. In the coming together of landscape and architecture, the building remains at the centre of natural elements and man-made elements, balancing both. While responding to the needs of the site rather than shaping the site to the user's necessities, the architecture of Capo presents a new dimension for stories of modern Mediterranean landscapes.