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Lina Ghotmeh, “Beirut is a city where everything is possible”

French-Lebanese architect Lina Ghotmeh recently received the “Tamayouz” prize, which rewards the excellence of women architects in the Middle East and North Africa. An additional recognition for this architect, who has won several international awards.

Born in Beirut in the 80s, Lina Ghotmeh kept from this cosmopolitan and rich city marked by several years of war, a certain sense of improvisation and creativity. Some qualities that led her towards architecture, which she first studied at the American University of Beirut, before joining the École Supérieure d’Architecture in Paris. Since then, she launched LGA (Lina Ghotmeh architecture), a Parisian architecture cabinet through which she achieved many projects in France and abroad, such as the Estionian National Museum, the Hermès studios in France or Stone Garden, a housing complex in Beirut that pays tribute to the dualities of the city.

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What led you to study architecture? 

Cinema, science fiction, writing, the desire to tell a spatial story. But also Beirut, my hometown, its chaos, the desire to rebuild, the desire for an inclusive city, nature in architecture.

You have participated in a broad variety of projects all over the world such as cultural establishment, some boutiques or real estate complex. What attracts you first in a project? 

The human adventure that can result from it. The possible porosities and contaminations in a project. The energy of a place, its nature, the role that a creation can play in a context. I am also attracted by the challenges, the complex situations that require innovation and both architectural and programmatic sense . 

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What is your creative process when designing a project? 

I do a lot of research.  I like to think about creation through questioning, a conception which consists of  a dialogue with the past and the future, which requires a fine listening of the place, the material, the earth. A quest towards the extraordinary that is both intelligible and accessible to all. 

Where did you get your inspiration? 

The climate, geography, history, the living and a constant fascination with nature

According to you, what explains the success of the Estonian Museum Project awarded by the Afex 2016 Prize?

It is a project which listens to its place. A real utopia. A multicultural adventure, and a territory opened to appropriation.  The building tells both the military past of the place and the poetry of an extraordinary nature. It is at the same time monumentality and absence. 

What do you think is your most beautiful project to date? Why? 

This is a difficult question because each project represents a passionate quest to share the beauty of this world. The launch of my architecture studio surely, because it’s a human adventure that blossoms from day to day. The Stone Garden tower is also a love letter to my hometown, an expression of a ploughed earth that is looking for its anchorage, the poetics of nature, the power of the hand that emerges through the Hermès Workshops under construction. The flickering of 340 candles lit for a dinner with big glasses at the Palais de Tokyo…

How do you feel after having received the Tamayouz Award of “Woman outstanding achievement” for Women Architects in the Near East and North Africa? 

It is with great humility that I receive this award. I am very attached to the Middle East, to Africa, as I am to France and Paris. This prize is just an opportunity to confirm the responsibility I feel towards our environment, the commitment to quality architecture in all its implications.

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How has your hometown influenced your work? 

Beirut is the city of all possibilities, of contradictions, of complexity. It learns to be polymorphic, to go out of the box, to draw the unexpected and to think of an architecture that opens up the imagination

What do you think is the key of a good architect? 

One step on the ground, another in the air.

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Published on 12 February 2021