In Lara Karim’s office, architecture is everywhere you look. A model of a new project dominates one side of her desk, with several of her sketches always close at hand. Design catalogues and architecture portfolios are stacked on her cabinets. Then, there are the pictures that decorate the office walls: mesmerising buildings that are highlights of Dar’s architecture portfolio, a portfolio that she has contributed to for years. In honour of International Women’s Day, we talked to Lara about her passion for architecture, her career as a lead designer and a project manager, her favourite project, and her advice for upcoming female architects.
Tell us about your field of specialty and its importance to Dar and to its clients.
Dar is a multi-disciplinary firm, but for me personally, architecture will always remain at the forefront of branding and innovation for the firm. It’s about designing places for people, places that honour humanity and make the world better and more beautiful. This by itself is very attractive to clients, who always want to look at achievements, excellency in design and award-winning projects, when choosing a consultant.
Across the spectrum of all design services, whether healthcare, education, hospitality, transport, mixed use or governmental buildings, we try to inspire clients through the immersive storytelling of the architecture and interior design of these facilities along with their functionality, ingenuity, and creativity. For me, this is the product that reflects the image of the firm.
I also believe that Dar, through its architectural department and various projects across fields, thrives to showcase values that are human centric, focusing on how to create social spaces, promote healthy lifestyles, and prioritize a cleaner environment.
What is the professional achievement you are most proud of?
Across my career at Dar, I have been exposed to all sorts of design opportunities and building functions, in various countries and cultures. I was involved in hospitality, residential, and mixed-use projects in Lebanon, the Middle East, and Africa. I participated in the design and development of education projects in these areas, and I was also recently involved in the design of a governmental complex and master plan in Angola.
But where my heart really is, that’s in the great opportunity I recently had to contribute to designing the expansion of the American University Medical Centre in Beirut.
The core purpose of healthcare facilities is, of course, the creation of healing spaces that allow for both body and mind to fight the good fight. But for AUBMC the design went the extra mile to honour the work of patients, doctors, medical staff, and caregivers, by creating, in the heart of Beirut, a special building that celebrates light and nature. This was achieved through vertical gardens and outdoor spaces that are intuitively planned and instinctively positioned to treat, heal, enhance, and soothe patients. Natural light was also brought into the heart of the building by an imaginatively designed light well.
This project is also very dear to me because it is located in my city, and it is of great service to the community. It was also a wonderful opportunity to work with AUBMC, this great institution that is thriving to raise the bar in healthcare service in Lebanon and the Middle East in general.
It is a great honour and opportunity of be part of this job. The project is currently under construction.
What are some interesting innovations in your field that you are particularly excited about?
Definitely today the whole planet’s consciousness is geared towards being environmentally responsible. In every field, companies and researches are putting sustainability and environmental responsibility as their top priority.
The design and construction fields are no exception. Designers today are actively and consciously involved in building a greener tomorrow and issuing pledges for zero-carbon design.
I believe the most exciting and challenging design aspect of my field today is the direction and mission of every responsible design to offset carbon emission. Through passive architecture, and responsible green engineering, we are committed to building a greener tomorrow and creating blueprints for climate-resilient buildings.
What advice would you give girls looking to create a career in your field?
Three words. Never stop dreaming!
Never stop dreaming, expanding, and growing. Believe in a brighter future and you should be able to provide it for yourself and for others.