For this unique Japanese restaurant serving an exclusive “Omakase” experience we have decided to take a closer look at Japanese food culture, materials, and aesthetics, stripping them back to their purest form.
The notion of “Omakase” translates as “respectfully leaving the decision with the Chef”, and this recalls the experience of anatomy theatres and laboratories, in which a single individual stages a performance for a group, in turn leading us to conceive of “Mayha” as a stage set for the Chef’s performance.
Within the constraints of the small 50m2 space, a single custom-designed curved stone table encircles the cooking station, allowing each customer to fully observe and immerse themselves in the Chef’s movements. Above the table, an oversized light fixture glows in the space. Borrowing from Japanese craft traditions the long and intricate process of making, the lantern is made of approximately 1500 pieces of “washi” paper. When lit, the lantern reveals its fibrous texture and brings warmth & voluptuousness to the kitchen space.
This inherent trust in the Chef’s choice is paralleled by a complete visibility of all the elements that take part in the cooking and dining experience. Inspired by the meticulous organization, classification, and arrangement displays typical of Japanese art and culture, the backdrop of both chef and customers are full ceiling height shelves on which crockery, cutlery and ingredients are carefully curated and displayed.
In keeping with the traditional construction of kitchens, the shelves are built in stainless steel, contrasting with the delicate and unique artifacts they hold. In the background, walls are clad with solid strips of maple wood, each individually selected to reveal the inherent grain of the wood, rather than achieving uniformity.
From the outside, Mayha exhibits a blurry façade: steel framed ribbed glass brings relief and translucency so that only the outer shape of the lantern and the hull of the space are outlined from the street.
In this way the restaurant itself becomes the stage for the Chef, with the customers an innate part of this dining theatre.
Special commissioned pieces include:
- 260cm diameter suspension in washi paper - by Spockdesign
- Full set of ceramic table ware designed to align with the menu requirements – by Souraya Haddad Ceramics
- A “tsuba” inspired entrance door handle – by Spockdesign
Chairs are vintage 1960s Kai Kristiansen in Teak and leather upholstery
Date: 2019 Status: Built Location: Beirut, Lebanon
MG Partners: Michèle Chaya, Georges Maria MG Team: William Wehbe, Ismail Bdeiry Engineering Consultants: RN consulting Engineers
Yew Distinct Wood
Marmgroup / The Piece Makers
Photos: Cherine Jokhdar & Géraldine Bruneel
A MEAT PLACE
The project for Skirt begins with the challenge of creating a refined dining experience, within a small space of 55sqm located in the center of Beirut.
A boutique steakhouse, where meat is to be aged, celebrated, and displayed, the restaurant was conceived to alter the traditional separation between the preparation and the consumption of food.
Rather than dividing the space into a kitchen and a dining area, the restaurant was conceived as a horizontal layering of the process through which meat is stored, cooked, served and savored.
Between the back wall and the façade overlooking the street, the kitchen aligns itself first, followed by a longitudinal communal table and finally the counter, a long strip against the street. In between, customers can choose to face the spectacle of the kitchen, or that of the street.
Perpendicularly to the space, the various kitchen areas are laid out in visible compartments, allowing an efficient and clean processing of the meat. Within the series of kitchen compartments, one glass cabinet showcases the meat, and its live ageing process. The ventilation was specifically studied to allow for live open-flame grilling inside the kitchen without producing any smells inside the restaurant.
The kitchen volume is finished, at its bottom, with solid slabs of walnut, whereas the top part is in clear glass framed in gunmetal finished steel. The long communal table is cast in concrete, and sits on the Walnut wood flooring. A pair of vintage 70s suspensions hangs above the table and diffuses a warm light through their sculptural form. A custom leather strip curtain leads to the restrooms, recalling the plastic curtains of traditional meat markets. Coat hangers with details in steel and leather – designed by Spockdesign– are fixed to the 2 opposite terrazzo walls.
Area: 55 m2 Date: 2017 Status: Built Location: Beirut, Lebanon
MG Partners: Michèle Chaya, Georges Maria MG Team: Raquel Chouiti, Ismail Bdeiry Engineering Consultants: RN consulting Engineers
AN APARTMENT IN BEIRUT
Intended as a second home for a family of 5, the apartment has been conceived around the need to provide a different residential experience for the clients, whose primary home is a 5-storey stacked townhouse in London.
Thus, flatness, horizontality, openness, and continuity were central in the conception of the apartment’s organization. The design plots a continuous flow of movement across the apartment, with functions and spaces opening onto each other as an enfilade, delineated by subtle changes in materials, colors, or textures.
Rather than entering directly into the open living space, a long hallway is defined by a custom-made black metal bookshelf that runs along one entire side of the reception area, hiding the guestroom door within it, creating a homogenous backdrop to the living room. The virtual space of the hallway is further delineated by the repetition of hanging lights along its axis, the custom tiling running along the floor, and a seamless black partition at its end, which holds a pair of sliding and hinged doors also concealing a corner office space beyond. At its other end, further delineating the entrance door, a custom-made self-standing coatroom reflects the light, and creates a more intimate circulation path to the guest powder room.
The living space itself spreads around the central core of the building, opening onto large terraces and the city, and extending into the auxiliary spaces around it in a continuous flow. On its other edge, facing the bookcase, two large glass doors give onto the family room and kitchen, and a large loggia beyond. Here the floor is again tiled, recalling the floor treatment of the hallway. Everywhere else, a Hungarian point wood pattern runs along the living spaces, further enhancing the experience of a continuously open flat. Each vantage point provides uninterrupted, layered views of the home, its planted terraces, and the city beyond.
Area: 560 m2 Date: 2017 Status: Built Location: Beirut, Lebanon
MG Partners: Michèle Chaya, Claudia Nieuwenburg, Georges Maria MG Team: Mayssa Jarrah, Aline Sassine, Ismail Bdeiry
Photography: Stephan Julliard, Ieva Saudergaité
LAW & ORDER
OM LAW OFFICES
This project for remodeling the headquarters of a Law firm questions the notions of knowledge, order, power and control traditionally associated with the practice of Law.
The clients, a well-established practice headed by two lawyers, wanted their offices to exhibit their long history of achievements, as well as house their extensive library of antique law volumes. In the main hall and meeting room, existing windows become the basis for a rhythmic vertical lining of the double height space, divided by a thin steel stair and a passage that circulates around the perimeter of the room. Full height bookcases of deep dark wood alternate with the steel framed windows.
Above the openings, large perspectival images of old traditional libraries hang on the blank walls between the shelves, reiterating the rhythm of the space.
Below, a large circular table occupies most of the space, granting panoptic power to all those assembling around it. Upstairs, the main office of the partners balances on the dichotomy between voyeurism and privacy.
The rhythm of the windows continues along the main wall that overlooks the assembly space, alternating through transparent glass openings and a digital screen. When needed, the glass can fog and become opaque, screening the main office from view.
At all other times, the lawyers sit in the elevated glass pod, overlooking the totality of the space, surveying their estate.
Area: 500 m2 Date: 2015 Status: Built Location: Beirut, Lebanon
MG Partners: Michèle Chaya, Georges Maria MG Team: Maya Mousallem, Ismail Bdeiry Engineering Consultants: BLOC Sal.
VARIATIONS ON A HOME
CL TOWNHOUSE PROJECT
Located in a residential neighborhood planned in the 1950s along the eastern border of the Beirut Pine Forest, the townhouse occupies the Garden level and first floor of a building from that period, recently renovated.
The original layout displayed a variety of typical and atypical characteristics of residential typologies from the French mandate era, including a 4.5m ceiling height, an unusual enfilade of rooms, and an enclosed haphazard loggia overlooking the inner courtyard, further modified by an earlier renovation.
The redesign of the house aimed to restore the singular character of the 1940s apartment, and highlight its distinctive features, while creating a contemporary home for a family of decidedly unique individuals that work in different creative fields.
Rather than a single open space and the traditional separation of public and private areas, the experience of home was reconceived as a continuous “promenade” carved within the framework of the existing layout, around which a series of differentiated spaces loosely attach and organize themselves.
Around the inner courtyard of the building, a rhythm for the loggia is restored and reflected on a glass ceiling, forming a naturally-lit central colonnaded core to the home.
From this core two axes extend, one linking the entrance to this living space, along the kitchen and dining room doors, ending with the master bedroom quarters; the other linking the public living spaces together, across the colonnaded core. These form a continuous spatial experience as well as constant layered vistas throughout the various interior and exterior spaces of the home.
Outside, the gardens unfolds over several levels: On the street level, a low planted garden acts as a buffer, overlooked by an elevated terrace that extends the main living space outdoors. On the other side, the inner courtyard garden also steps down, following the topography of the land and allowing the ground floor spaces to open up to the light and landscape of the home.
On the lower floor, a similar flow of spaces organizes itself around another circulation core, a central spiral staircase that sits like a hinge between the sister and brother’s quarters.
The sculpted stair rises up to meet the first floor at the main entrance, and continues to a mezzanine level that hangs above the kitchen. The organization of the private and public functions of the home along the uninterrupted “promenade” allows each space to maintain its identity and autonomy while still belonging to the cohesive unit of the home.
A continuous wooden parquet runs along this circulation spine, and is reflected in the ceiling, delineating the path throughout the house. In the main living spaces, the wood unfolds in a chevron pattern, distinct from the adjacent parquet.
In the kitchen and connected dining area, the chevron is shaped by a gradient of custom-made encaustic cement tiles. Elsewhere, various geometric tile patterns, reminiscent of traditional 1940s Lebanese homes, punctuate unique spaces within the house: The main entrance, its extensions, the lobby below.
With these various details and differences unfolding like a variation on a same theme, the house celebrates the family’s diverse characters, and the multiplicity of the lives it shelters.
Area: 800 m2 Date: 2015 Status: Built Location: Beirut, Lebanon
MG Partners: Michèle Chaya, Georges Maria MG Team: Raquel Chouiti, Maureen Awad, Ismail Bdeiry Engineering Consultants: RKN
Photography: Géraldine Bruneel
IWAN MAKTABI SHOWROOM
The project for the Iwan Maktabi Flagship store begins with the idea of display, formally represented through the shop window, and stretches its intent from architectural element to experienced space.
The four shop windows that line the front facade of the shop are projected in their depth, forming an extension of the floor of the shop. The carpets, fixed on white walls 2 meters behind the windows, are now visible from inside and outside the store, encapsulating in their physicality both the idea and the physical space of “display”.
Entering through the last bay, the visitor is invited to cross the 2 meter wide space of the shop window, before entering the exhibition area. The hallway doubles as a gallery with large display cabinet occupying the space between the windows, accentuating the rhythm of approach from the door.
The solemnity of this gallery space is further enhanced by the proportions of the white walls, the tall windows, and the reflective ceiling duplicating the height of the space.
Once inside, the shop reveals itself as an open space divided in two: a display area with white walls on one side, and a working area with the reception desk and a meeting room on the mezzanine level all finished in smoked Oak wood on the other side.
A central structural column supports ladder like rods that serve as additional hanging for small carpets, textiles and samples. In the work area, defined in wood, parallel flights of stairs connect the four different levels of the shop. Floating steps of solid Oak are framed by wall paneling on one side and metal rods on the other.
On the mezzanine, a meeting table in Carrara marble contrasts with the rough finish of the oak paneling behind.
A storage library extends from the ground floor up to the mezzanine level, highlighting the connection between the two.
Area: 1,020 m2 Date: 2013 Status: Built Location: Beirut, Lebanon
MG Partners: Michèle Chaya, Georges Maria MG Team: Maya Mousallem, Aline Sassine, Waref Sleiman Engineering Consultants: RKN
Photography: Géraldine Bruneel
CENTRALE RESTAURANT REFIT
The Centrale restaurant and bar was initially conceived by Bernard Khoury/DW5 in 2001 and housed in a 1920s residential structure under historical protection. At its opening in 2001, the project gained immediate success both locally and internationally.
In 2013, it was time for the restaurant to reinvent itself. With an acquired knowledge of the needs and preferences of its clientele, the owners of Centrale commissioned MARIAGROUP with the redesign of the restaurant: both the interior and the garden were revisited.
The new scheme is driven by the idea that the existing iconic space should be emphasized in its architectural qualities, while the new intervention is clearly identified as an addition, marked in time.
The proportions of the internal space are preserved with the metallic cylindrical bar hovering above and the wire mesh panoramic elevator traveling the vertical distance.
A platform finished with large planks of oak wood and framed in black steel sits in the middle of the big hall, on top of the existing paving tiles, and keeps a distance from the existing walls: the gap is highlighted with indirect linear recessed lighting.
Panels of stretched translucent fabric with frames in black lacquered steel are positioned against the existing walls: they reveal the distribution of the windows on the original facades and hide acoustic paneling that enhance the sound qualities of the monumental main hall.
On one of the long walls, a panoramic image appears from behind the fabric, reminiscent of 17th century Dutch still life paintings, reviving the memory of the old table that was in the restaurant in its initial form. It is a photo showing a feast spanning the 4 seasons and animated by elegant figures.
It has been created for the restaurant, on its premises, on a table that is now used as a “table d'hôte”. 8 photos are fixed, as light boxes, to the back of the stretched fabric panels, and the image appears floating behind. The original architect was invited to the photo shoot and figures in one of the scenes, thus ensuring a continuity in the history of the design of this place.
On the platform, the floor lamps which are custom-designed for the restaurant, create a low horizontal and intimate level of lighting that breaks with the verticality of the space. The fully articulated lamps can be adjusted to allow for various table layouts and lighting schemes.
The white table clothes were selected to reflect the light that is directed at them from the floor lamps above. Dining chairs are re-editions of the iconic Finn Juhl chair: the quality of the workmanship that shows on the wood of the chairs, the details of the connections, the comfortable seat all suggest a luxurious yet understated feel.
In the “table d’hôte” area, all finished in strips of solid matt walnut, a suspension in polished copper – with recessed accent lights - hovers above a single slab wood table. The strips of wood continue on the volume of the staircase and line up both walls and ceiling to suggest an ethereal ascending movement.
Vertical posts in blackened steel light up the corners of the walls at each landing.
Today, the iconic restaurant is open with a revived identity that preserves the memory of the former space.
Area: 470 m2 Date: 2013 Status: Built Location: Beirut, Lebanon
MG Partners: Michèle Chaya, Georges Maria MG Team: Maya Mousallem, Raquel Chouiti, Aline Sassine, Waref Sleiman Steel Works: ACID Lighting: Lumière group
Photography: Marcel Rached
EJ PENTHOUSE PROJECT
Area: 2,790 m2 Date: 2012 Status: Built Location: Mtayleb, Lebanon
MG Partners: Yolla Maria, Michèle Chaya, Georges Maria MG Team: Maya Mousallem, Samer Abla, Waref Sleiman Engineering Consultants: Equip Engineering
Photography: Géraldine Bruneel
BEACH HOUSE INTERIORS
Area: 1,460m2 Date: 2014 Status: Design Development Location: Jeddah, KSA
MG Partners: Michèle Chaya, Georges Maria MG Team: Maya Mousallem, Raquel Chouiti, William Wehbé, Ismail Bdeiry Engineering Consultants: HAK Engineers & Consultants
ISLAMIC KNOWLEDGE CENTER
Area: 420 m2 Date: 2005 Status: Built Location: Beirut, Lebanon
MG Partners: Michèle Chaya, Georges Maria Photography: Géraldine Bruneel