By: Kelly Potts
Galal Mahmoud creates buildings designed to connect inhabitants with their beautiful surroundings.
Galal Mahmoud was just 17 years old when he and his family were forced to leave their home in Beirut in the 1970s. Although undoubtedly a traumatizing experience, the silver lining was undeniable. His move to France exposed him to an intriguing new culture and history, leading him to study at the School of Architecture in Versailles, Paris.
“As a young student in architecture, I traveled Europe extensively and this has opened my mind and imagination to such diversified cultures and aesthetics,” he says. “It definitely allowed me to develop a natural way of immediately understanding and acknowledging every country or city I visit for my new projects.”
After studying architecture, Mahmoud had a successful partnership with Jean Pierre Heim that he finished in 1996. That same year, with a newfound appreciation for culture and travel, Mahmoud went back to his home country and founded GM Architects in Beirut. “Moving back to my country of origin with this extensive, diversified cultural background has allowed me to produce an ethos signature of my work,” he says.
Mahmoud notes that his signature ethos consists of two parts: creating a real sense of place for all of his projects that can be traced to the natural environment, and creating spaces that bring a sense of well-being, which, he says, is the essence of true and successful architecture.
Mahmoud finds inspiration for his designs in everything, from the context, local culture and history of the location he’s designing at to his travels, reading, art and fashion. He states that these creative actions are in his scope at all times. “It all boils down to creating a space that speaks the language of the location with a modern and contemporary interpretation,” he says.
This is certainly the case with one of his latest projects, a luxury resort in Morocco named Sofitel Tamuda Bay, which was designed to link the French ‘art de vivre,’ or the art of living, with the culture of the location. Mahmoud says, “This is where art and culture fuse with design and interiors.”
For this design, Mahmoud drew inspiration from the ocean and its proximity to the resort. “The vision of the sea and its closeness is present everywhere and invades the exterior spaces as well as the interiors,” he says, noting that this project truly reflects his company’s ethos of holistic design.
One major aspect of the resort that was inspired by water is a large feature sitting in the middle of the plot. Mahmoud says, “it acts as a link for the sea with the pool, greenery and leisure activities during the day and becomes a reflective element of the buildings during the night, transforming this large open space into a magical play of light and water.”
Sofitel Tamuda Bay, which Mahmoud says has allowed them to develop a rich palette of joyful and iconic colors and patterns, was inspired by “contemporary artists of the 20th century who were influenced during their careers with the Moroccan arts and crafts.” The combination of colors and patterns in the rooms, suites, restaurants and bar create unique spaces that have their own character, positively impacting those who visit.
The resort also features a large spa that offers treatments as well as in-room training lessons, creating a one-of-a-kind experience for guests. The spa features a wall of windows that allows light and ocean views into the wellbeing center. Mahmoud says, “The spa enraptures the total relaxing experience one would expect in such a venue.”
Mahmoud notes that the biggest challenge of this project was to develop a Moroccan luxury destination without falling into the expected Moroccan cliché features that are so often used. “You feel you are in Morocco without it being in your face,” he says. “It’s modern, fresh and very subtle.” Mahmoud overcame the challenges, and the Sofitel earned two prestigious honors at the World Luxury Hotel Awards in 2016.
Other impressive commissions include a seafront resort in Dubai and the renovation of the famous Winter Palace Hotel in Luxor Egypt. His latest project, the Myconian K Hotels in Mykonos, Greece, consists of three luxury resorts: the five-star Kyma, the adults-only Naia, and the Relais & Chateaux-endorsed Korali.
Mahmoud says that his main goal is to create living spaces that people will enjoy. He appreciates architecture that makes you happy and makes your life a better one, noting, “It is not about the form, but about how you live and experience it.”
Photos courtesy of Luc Boegly and Christophe Gay