Fosh Street, BCD, Beirut, Lebanon
Ground floor: 83 m² Lower level: 64 m²
© Géraldine Bruneel
The standalone shop, which carries the contemporary ready-to-wear collections of the global brand, is raw, luminous and inviting. Comprised of a ground floor showroom of 70 square meters and a slightly smaller basement reserved for stocking, the boutique exudes warmth and low-key luxe in a completely open space. One fixed architecture element pops out in the store, and that’s a single wall – everything else is mobile and can bend with the whims of the visual merchandizer or stylist. Minimizing the “strong décor” setup shifts focus to the uncontested star of the space: the clothes. The pieces of furniture were introduced, which light the space, and then the clothes were presented… The furniture is just an accessory to promote the clothes, and something of a blank canvas was created around the clothing. To that end, everything was designed to look like furniture pieces, such as the light grey, geometrically-cut concrete boxes, the distinguished metal shelving that suggests a cocoon, and even the lights, which at times extend from asymmetrical posts. This projects a sense of virgin-ness, as though the place has been untouched. The raw ceiling further confirms this feeling. The design breaks down the “shoebox shape”, harking back to the old Downtown of Beirut by taking advantage of the store’s arcade shapes and “dematerializing” them. This is where the Lebanese vernacular and local flavor comes in. It further manifests itself in the demure terrazzo flooring, a traditional technique of casting concrete with marble and polishing them discreetly. It is an inexpensive method that gained popularity between ‘40s-‘60sLebanon but gradually fell out of use being a challenging art form. The boutique effortlessly translates the notions of luxury, hard rock and warmth, using such materials as wood, steel and concrete against a backdrop of darkish tones and a white background. The walnut wood is matt with a water-based varnish that makes it look as though it’s been cut off a tree. The metal shelving and extensions are not typically black, but painted in a hue that attempts to capture the rawness of steel as much as possible. Despite being distinct from other Joseph stores (designed by Raëd Abillama as well) strewn around the globe, Joseph Beirut complements the brand’s design sensitivities and respect of the local culture, as opposed to being a carbon copy of a store on the other side of the world. The aesthetic is perhaps closest to that of the Tokyo branch where the label pushed for more “warmth and upper-scale luxury” than in the London or Paris shops for instance, where the concept of luxury is more understated. Simplicity is reached with bare minimum architecture, colors as well as materials. The technical aspects have also been compressed to up the rawness impression and to imply that the space has been left intact.