Carl Gerges initially found international attention as one of the founders of the Lebanese rock band, Mashrou Leila.
The band, created while he was in university, gained popularity for its satirical lyrics and bold attitude. Now, Carl Gerges has once again found himself in the limelight. This time, Gerges chose to illustrate with his designs that his creativity knows no bounds.
Gerges graduated with a BFA in Architecture from the American University of Beirut. After working with several prominent architects for almost a decade, he established his own firm, Carl Gerges Architecture, in 2020. The magnificent Villa Chams was the firm’s first project, demonstrating Gerges’ skill and artistry.
Villa Chams is located in the historic city of Baalbek. It was once an ancient Phoenician temple city known as the Heliopolis. With two Roman temple ruins - the Temple of Bacchus and the Temple of Jupiter - Baalbek is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site is also a beautiful one, set amidst an arid landscape of opuntias and olive trees. Gerges designed Villa Chams to be a part of this setting. He tried to minimize the structure’s impact on the pristine surroundings, delicately weaving it into the fabric of the landscape.
The clean lines of the structure intersect in parts with natural rock faces, creating a beautiful contrast in design. By reusing materials excavated from the site, Gerges was able to reduce its footprint and turn the design into an extension of its surroundings. Continuity is achieved in the design by using natural elements, both existing and constructed, to interact with the spaces. An underground pool winds through columns in concrete, surrounded by terrazzo and rocks. The effect it creates is that of standing by a creek, while retaining the aesthetic of the Roman temples.
The bathroom design makes uses of an existing rock face. The rock reflects light from the skylight and bounces it through the bathroom, forming a central part of the design. Tapping into his musical sensibilities, Gerges also designed a music and reading room situated a level below the ground. The grand piano and the seating area are designed with soft, fluid edges and a desert inspired color scheme. Much like the rest of the house, the scheme combines with natural textures and local handicrafts to form a charming space.
Large succulents frame the seating area, basking in the ample sunlight from the skylight. Together, they form a space perfect for listening and reading, connected with nature. Just like the indoors, the outdoors are also given careful consideration. Without disturbing much of the flora, seating spaces are created from where the beauty all around can be appreciated to the fullest. Clad in a natural brown shade, Villa Chams is contemporary, and can pass for a well preserved temple in this age-old city. It is built within the context, and as every author can confirm, context is indeed everything.
Photography; Carl Gerges Architects