The architecture and vision of the K Galleria project are inspired by the infamous ancient khan or urban caravanserai, the equivalent of the public marketplace in the Middle East during the Ottoman era.
During the heyday of overland travel, thousands of khans had popped up along the trade routes covering Asia, Middle East, North Africa, and southeastern Europe, especially along the Silk Road.
Linked to the growth of the land trade between the Orient and the West, khans formed a major phenomenon in the history of this part of the world, from an economic, a social and a cultural point of view. They supported the flow of commerce, information, and people from different backgrounds, thus becoming a place for communication as well as cultural exchange and trade.
In Lebanon, a number of khans survive up until today, such as the majestic and massive Khan El Franj which was the center of social and commercial activities down to the 19th century, and served not only as a place for exchange of goods but also for exchange of culture and ideas.
As both client and architect wanted to avoid creating yet another clone of the traditional shopping mall or department store, capturing the vernacular and social essence of the traditional khans was a primary concern in the design of K Galleria. It was essential to transcend the mere commercial and retail functions, and rather create a space for recreation and socialization, acting as a funnel to collect social crowds from the surrounding neighborhoods.
The project is located in the thriving coastal city of Kaslik (North of Beirut), a small city with a mixed residential and commercial purpose. The civil war has contributed to the growth of businesses in the neighborhood’s commercial strip that became known as one of Lebanon's most prestigious streets filled with boutiques, restaurants, nightclubs, hotels, as well as a prominent university.
Adjacent to the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK), the new lifestyle center comes as an extension to the main commercial strip, aiming to serve to the social and commercial demands of the surrounding local community of students, residents of all ages, businessmen and tourists, as well as the larger area of Keserwan.
Architectural elements recalling the ancient khans, such as Khan El Franj which is one of the finest examples of the architecture of its time, serve as the basis for the design vocabulary of K Galleria.
Volumetrically, the building presents itself as a solid monolithic cubic element evoking the typical square layout of the khans, with a shifted parallelepiped that breaks up the bulky look of the volume and generates the geometry of the main atrium or central courtyard.
As a reference to the loopholes on the outer walls of Khan El Franj, the K Galleria elevations are partially traversed with vertical openings, creating an inviting and attractive building facade with strong visual relations with its contiguous exterior spaces, and allowing natural light and ventilation to enter the building, thus saving on energy.
This contemporary interpretation of the vernacular is complemented with the sober choice of natural local white stone treated in a contemporary aspect, as the main building material.
Conceived as a major entertainment destination, K Galleria offers a robust menu of lifestyle choices where the retail component becomes more or less supplemental, as 35% of the leased space is earmarked for leisure and dining activities.
MZ Architects is a multi-award winning architecture firm founded and lead by Marwan Zgheib since 2002. Initially based in Qatar, the firm won several architectural competitions and had the opportunity to acquire extensive experience in designing and developing high-rise buildings in the midst of the construction boom in the country.
Within a few years, MZ Architects became one of the leading architecture and consultancy groups in Qatar and in the Gulf, with a regional office in Abu Dhabi.
In 2007, MZ Architects’ headquarters were reassigned in Lebanon as an architecture and urban planning firm providing services for masterplanning projects, small-scale houses, hotels, high-rise buildings, residential buildings, stadiums, cultural centers and industrial buildings spread across Lebanon, Qatar, the UAE, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.