Mezzing in Lebanon

London (UK)


London Design Biennale 2016
1st Prize - Most exceptional design contribution

AKK Architects recreated an authentic experience of Beirut street life with this installation at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale 2016, sharing the sights, sounds and emotions of daily life in the Lebanese capital.

In response to the Biennale’s theme of Utopia, the installation extolled the ingenuity and optimism of the Lebanese people. 

Towering scaffolds enclosed the River Terrace of Somerset House to create the streetscape. The structure recreated the permeable façade of Lebanese buildings, punctuated not by windows and doors but rows and rows of gently fluttering curtains. Tangled electric cabling, street signs, and the overflowing barrows of street sellers completed the scene. 

The scaffolding also housed a small cinema and an installation of traditional shops displaying a typically incongruous assortment of wares. Stalls selling foods such as falafel, shawarma, orange juice and bread, an authentic barber shop and even a vendor of ceramic toilets were positioned shoulder to shoulder as they would be in Downtown Beirut. 

Street seating allowed people to stay longer and absorb the atmosphere, sampling food and smoking narghiles (hookah pipes) just as the Beirutis do.

Mourad Mazouz, visionary restaurateur, founder of Momo Restaurants (404 and Derriere in Paris, and Momo and Sketch in London) and long time aficionado of Beirut  served his own take on Lebanese food.

Annabel Karim Kassar commented: “The most crucial challenge is to evoke the feeling of Beirut, without masking the DNA of London which permeates Somerset House and every space around it. Rather, I would like to juxtapose the two cities; the installation will recreate the narrow, bustling streets of Beirut directly onto the wide promenade of the River Terrace and the Neoclassical façade of Somerset House. The most interesting thing for me will be to experience these two realities side by side and, perhaps, to learn something new about them through this interaction.“

Design Team Rabih Zeidan, Violaine Jeantet, Maxwell Sterry, Maria Buontempo, Nehmat Alameh, Marie Robin, Christophe Hascoët, Isabelle Rolland, Alain Pin, Mustapha Hijazi, Francesca Cantien.

Supported by Embassy of Lebanon, London; AMAR Foundation for Arab Music Archiving & Research; Serge Akl, Office du Tourisme du Liban pour l’Europe; Raymond Khattar, Middle East Airlines; Lynn Tahini, The Ministry of Culture of Lebanon.


Curator & lead designerAnnabel Karim Kassar, Riba

Guest designersGeorges Mohasseb, Rana Salam, Zawarib

Guest artisansBlatt Chaya, Henri Ghosn, Amer El Lahibi