B 018

B 018 in Beirut, Lebanon by Bernard Khoury, 1998

Situated underground, like a bunker or bomb shelter, B 018 is a new nightclub in the Levant area of Beirut. Descending a narrow, dark corridor, the visitor is confronted with bouncers acting as soldiers and a view of the club through a sniper's window. Inside the bartenders and servers dress in white uniforms resembling nurses at a sanatorium. Although this scenario does not seem ideal for a night out, it is just the atmosphere desired by architect Bernard Khoury.

Sited in an area of Beirut stormed by militia forces during the Lebanese civil war in 1976 (a Palestinian refugee camp at the time), the club acts as a reminder of this dark, yet relevant, history. The client, Nagi Gebrane, and his friends ran B 018 out of Gebrane's apartment as an escape from the fighting and massacres that occurred for the remaining fifteen years. Moving to an industrial area of Beirut, the club was forced to close down in 1997, at which time Gebrane approached Khoury to look for a site for the new B 018.
People fear developing anything that will make them think about their present state. I prefer to stress the importance of events more than the physical structure.   -Bernard Khoury
The intention was to create an environment full of contradictions. As mentioned the bar is located underground, but the roof retracts to create an open-air space. When open a mirrored part of the ceiling, angled at 50 degrees, gives outsiders a glimpse of the subterranean life at the club, while club-goers see the lights of passing cars and the city beyond. The majority of the space is open, made up of tables and chairs which fold down to resemble musical-instrument cases. The bar seats though have full-height backs that give the patrons privacy in an environment conducive to social interaction.

It is rare that a work of architecture confronts a scar-filled history so directly, much less a place of entertainment. And although a small space the effect is dramatic, with dark surfaces accentuating the underground location and the retractable roof drawing a clear division between above and below, between turbulent past and peaceful present.