Khalil Khoury Tribute
|AUB architects pay tribute to Khalil Khoury
The personality and charisma of the late Khalil Khoury animated AUB’s Architecture Lecture Hall on the evening of November 5 when family, friends, colleagues, and former students gathered to honor “the Corbusier of Lebanon,” who succumbed to cancer on October 8. AUB architecture students, past and present, answered the call to honor their former teacher and mentor. Tributes poured in from around the world. Outside the lecture hall, these personal tributes and images of Khoury’s work were beamed on the wall, affirming the extraordinary influence of the architect. Khoury’s wife, architect son Bernard, and two of his brothers attended the tribute to the late architect.
During the tribute, organized by Leila Musfy, chair of the Department of Architecture and Design, and chaired by George Arbid, of the same department, the speakers focused on the power of Khoury’s personality, the strength of his architectural mission, his influence as a teacher, and the sheer genius of his work.
Former president of the Lebanese Order of Architects and Engineers Assem Salam, declaring it painful to lose a friend and colleague so close both professionally and personally, recalled Khoury as “a pioneer of the modern movement in architecture in Lebanon,” influenced by the humanism of the Renaissance and the rigor of the Bauhaus School. Praising Khoury’s frankness, he said Khalil Khoury “was the leading architect of us all.” He was very emotional, but permitted no compromise in his work. “Scientist, designer, artist, painter, he was contemporary, modern, progressive.” For Khoury, Salam said, “structure and expression were one.”
Khoury was keen to develop a new generation of architects who would explore the role of the architect in the development of society. He emphasized the importance of environment for the people, and said new architects should try to save Lebanon by getting through to the politicians. It was through his influence that architecture became a major field of study at AUB.
The founder of Interdesign, a furniture industry which produced functional objects from lamps to chairs, he was known for creations ranging from simple egg cups to comfortable office chairs. He was interested in everything: flying, gliding, hunting, humor, and people from all levels of society. He was humble and had no extravagances in his life from beginning to the end. Khalil Khoury, Salam said, was a visionary and truly humane human being, and his influence on students was vast.
Former students, now architects Simone Kosremelli and Emilie Kfoury recounted their experiences with Khoury as teacher. Kosremelli remembered Khoury as always talking and always sketching. Working with him and Salam in the summer of 1975, she remembered his advising. For him, “no problem was without a solution,” but his solutions were never commonplace—“they reflected his genius.” “He was designer, creator, carpenter.” As more of a colleague between 1978 and 1981, she shared with Khoury endless lunches animated by vibrant, inspiring conversation. “He knew about everything,” and expressed himself “as no one else could.” “It is a great loss for humanity,” she said, that he never wrote anything down. He made easy contact with young people of all ages; “he was everlasting for all people.”
Emilie Kfoury, for whom Khoury was both teacher and friend for many years, detailed the privilege, the “joy and happiness” of learning from the late architect as both student and coworker. She remembered his having no office of his own—only a small desk. When Emilie became a free lance architect, Khoury continued to help her, even working with her, side by side, to accept the computer in the 1990s.
A boyhood friend of Khalil Khoury (“I knew him from age nine”), Gregoire Serof shared many photographs of their friendship, from early school days to ALBA to later professional juries, illustrating the compelling variety of Khoury’s personality as carpenter, inventor, interior designer, landscape designer, and architect.
Recalling his character, Serof remembered Khoury as a rebel, a non-conformist, a risk-taker, a poker player filled with revolutionary ideas. He was brusque; he dared to say anything.
Serof displayed photographs of many Khoury buildings, among them the municipal stadium of Jounieh, the Collége des Frères Mont La Salle, the Jureidini Building, and the bathing complex at al Manar.
Serof’s informal and warm recollections of his friend and colleague prompted a number of recollections and descriptions from members of the audience.