In November 2014, Paris City Hall presented its call for urban proposals for “Reinventing Paris.” It was a plan aiming to "give the keys of the fabrication of 23 territories" to "all those who contribute to the fabrication of the city," explained Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of the French capital. At the center of this project, there was a single motto: architectural, urban and social innovation.
This plan concerns 23 Parisian sites called up to be reinvested in and reinvented. It's for one of these sites, the disused railway station of Massena in the 13th arrondissement, that the project of Lina Ghotmeh, Lebanese architect who heads up the DGT Architects group, was preselected in mid-July, alongside 74 other projects.
If the jury, consisting of experts and representatives of the executive organ of the city, the town halls of the involved arrondissements, city management and political groups of the Council of Paris, votes for the project by the Lebanese architect, a "tower of Babel" will rise on the site of the disused railway station.
"Having been selected at this phase of the project is a nice recognition," confides Lina Ghotmeh to Orient-Le Jour. "I strongly believe in the Refuel Massena concept as a unifying project, and I hope most of all to see it realized" she affirms.
Her "tower of Babel," a 14-story building covered in wood, is "a unique place, a model for sharing and experimentation," whose main challenge is to inspire an environmental consciousness by creating a link with the neighborhood," she explains. "It includes an urban farm, housing, culinary experimental spaces, a cafeteria, work spaces, as well as a concert hall. The building and the expectant railway station are the outline of a landscaped promenade. Ramps invite you to an urban promenade that extends around the building and the railway station, a vertical microcity whose culminating point is the sky of Paris, inhabited by an urban farm." And the Lebanese architect continues," the humanity freed from this 'tower of Babel' is inherent to the project. Its expression is living, a symbol of the diversity of cultures among men and women. An economy where nothing gets lost, everything is transformed. A zero-waste and zero-carbon project."
Challenges Rather than Difficulties
Lebanon, Beirut, where she was born and raised, are never distant as sources of inspiration for Lina Ghotmeh. "Since my childhood, I was touched by the capital’s landscape in ruins, which was even more invaded by vegetation then than it is now," she describes. "This arose a strong desire in me to create and constantly released my imagination." The architect continues," Above all, I was impressed by the force that nature can have in conversing with the built environment and in invading each war ruin so as to resurge a beauty in the city through what is really the result of a human atrocity."
For her, the Refuel Massena concept resonates strongly with the current reality of Lebanon, at a time when the Lebanese capital is invaded by household waste. "The project is a model that we can implant at Massena in Paris, but that could also be reproduced in another city, like Beirut," she assures. For the Lebanese woman and her DGT Architects team, “Reinventing Paris” was "an opening to approach density, diversity, energy or resilience in depth. To represent what Paris could be tomorrow ... on exceptional Parisian sites ..."
Having graduated with honors in architecture from American University in Beirut (AUB) in 2003, Lina Ghotmeh began her professional journey between Paris and London with Atelier Jean Nouvel and Foster and Partners. In 2006, with two current associates, she won the international competition for the Estonian National Museum. The next year, she received the AJAP prize, an architectural prize awarded by the French Department of Culture. Taking advantage of this recognition, she founded her own architecture firm in Paris, which today has satellites and collaborators in Tokyo, Talin in Estonia, Italy and Beirut. Present in the academic world, Lina Ghotmeh has been teaching at the Ecole Speciale d'architecture in Paris since 2008. She has also led international workshops and has been a lecturer and jury member in prestigious institutions across the globe.
Beirut always has a place among the architect's projects. She cites the example of Stone Gardens, a concept of housing and gallery for the el-Khoury family, developed by RED SAL, in association with Batimat Architects. The project under construction in the port area is the fruit of a "timeless architecture with nature as the calendar," she affirms. Beyond the art of constructing buildings, for Lina Ghotmeh, architecture can "gather, unite, transport and can allow its inhabitants to play, dream, create."
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Original article, originally written by Matthieu Karam and published in French on L'Orient- Le Jour," here.
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