THE SECRET PATHWAYS OF RABIH GEHA
Renowned for such radical projects as überhaus and Off/On, two clubs in Beirut that present a new approach to nightlife, Rabih Geha is also a preservationist of old houses, and creator of spaces brimming with life. This young architect fell into the profession by accident, but retained his passion for it.
Photography TONY ELIEH Styling SEVINE SAMADI Creative Direction MELANIE DAGHER Artistic Direction JOSÉE NAKHLE Location VILLA ASWAD
I wasn’t born an architect. No one in my family is one. I studied at Jamhour where I was seen as a dreamer with my head in the clouds. I was impulsive and instinctive but at the same time I was good at creating things with my hands. Nowadays I like to play with my children’s toys. It’s their universe that gives me inspiration.
On his personal journey
I do not pretend to belong to any school or movement. What gets me going is the project itself and the space it offers, whether I am working on a super structure like überhaus or the renovation of a home where it’s all in the details. I am not limited by one style but by the best solution.
On nightclubs and ephemeral structures
Once again it is by accident that I specialized in the world of nightclubs. I am also equally proud of the private residences that I have worked on. Whether it’s an old house in the mountains that I have restored or another in Beirut, where I brought together the old and the contemporary in harmony.
The first club that I was commissioned to work on was On/Off. The entrance is made to look like a 1920s speakeasy including an old barbershop. One is immediately transported into a state of mystery. There’s something intriguing about accessing this obscure place where one is invited to leave the day behind and feel free in the night. One is left with the impression of flying over a sleeping city like Peter Pan. I am currently working on a layout for an On/Off rooftop on the terrace facing the club.
With überhaus the idea was to create an ephemeral structure for winter and that in summer it would become an open-air bar. I imagined Pinocchio getting lost in the limbs of a whale. Thus a metallic monster was forged with removable pieces. There is always a narrative behind these projects. I am very inspired by the Disney universe, its tales, its emotions and childhood fears.
I tried to give the place its history back. The walls had not been repainted. We ended up stripping off seven layers of paint to reach the initial layer, which dates back to the early 1900s. My instinct told me to stop there. As for the terrace, I used tiles that resembled the neighborhood’s old pavements. The garden is happily unorganized with fruit trees and greenery. As for the roof, I imagined a metallic structure with lighting in the shape of stars, as though it were a perpetual Christmas.
The Four Seasons’ Rooftop
This is one of my most recent projects. It’s a pop-up which, in a year’s time, will be followed by a total renovation of the space. Being a place where one enjoys the sunset and the sea, the huge terrace, which accommodates 500 people, needed more intimacy. One of my interventions included creating a black wood barrier to separate the bar area from the pool, while maintaining a visual dialogue between the two. The bar will be decorated with colorful subway tiles, creating a chill lounge atmosphere.
I began my studies at ALBA. I then moved to AUB before going to France to pursue my master’s degree. When I returned to Beirut in 2006, I rejoined ALBA, this time to teach. The message I would give to my students? Try, dream, continue doing what you can, we can always achieve more. When we get there, there’s a profound satisfaction in seeing our project come to life and having people interact with it.