Exhibit Wall Panel
Inter-Continental negotiated a deal to build the Phoenicia, and brought in leading American architect Eduard Durell Stone to complete the design with Joseph Salerno, an architect who had worked on Inter-Continental’s Curacao hotel in Brazil. The interiors were contracted to the New York architectural firm of William M. Ballard, where Neal Prince had worked since 1957. Because of his experience working on hotels, and a modest remodel project he did for an Inter-Continental hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Prince was sent by Ballard to Beirut to work on the interiors and to represent Stone in matters of interior layouts and finishes.
The Phoenicia Inter-Continental Hotel, completed in 1961, was the first InterContinental venture outside of Latin America. Its stunning Mediterranean setting, and the cosmopolitan nature of the city, inspired Stone to create a sophisticated design that combined elements of high modernism with Mughal and Muslim architecture. Stone designed two separate towers faced with stone, set within a larger rectangular base with a two story wrap-around colonnade set right on the water. Projecting balconies featured delicate pattern work, a common decorative motif of Beirut. The dazzling light of the region played across the facade’s patterned and recessed surfaces, with the white of the buildings contrasted with the deep blue of the sea.
Prince was similarly inspired by the natural beauty and rich cultural heritage of this cosmopolitan city. His stand-out designs focused on the hotel’s bar and the pool area. Sous le Mer, the hotel’s bar, was decorated in shimmering blue and turquoise square tiles, and provided underwater glimpses of the hotel’s swimming pool (and diving patrons) through rectangular glass panels edged in brass frames. When Prince thought the area devoted to the pool was too small for a luxury resort, he tackled the problem through design: he created undulating waves of blue, green, and white tile that flowed across the terrace into the swimming pool, that, when viewed from above, made the oval pool seem to ripple out into the courtyard and appear larger than it actually was.
Beirut was the first project where Prince applied his philosophy of design tied to location. Paisley fabrics, inspired by the arabesques of Islamic decorative arts and Arabic script, were used as wall coverings. For the hotel’s coffee shop, which featured a two-story wall of glass windows that opened onto the Mediterranean, he used sheer panels overlaid with gold paisley patterns that echoed the lacey grillwork of the building’s architecture. Like Islamic screens, the panels both mediated direct sunlight and cast intricate shadow patterns on the interior. In the case of the furnishings, Prince went directly to the souk, the city’s bazaar, to have local fabricators make samples of chairs as possible models for the hotel. When he learned that the fabricators would be unable to produce chairs on the scale required for a commercial enterprise, Prince traveled with a small local company to Germany to purchase the equipment needed for mass production. This company would become Daou et Fils, a major furniture manufacturer in the Middle East.