Founded in 2004, Principle Founder Michel Abboud offers an avant-garde approach to user-friendly luxury through his firm SOMA Architects.
With offices in New York and Lebanon, the firm works in close tandem with the users, understanding their needs and wants in tandem with the endless constraints of architectural design. Their work mainly revolves around luxury residential, condominiums, hospitality, and mixed-use projects that offer a no-compromise stand towards design.
In under 20 years, Abboud already has won the AIA Gold Medal, the James Beard award, the World Architecture Design Award, and two Architizer A+ awards in his portfolio.
Ahead, we have featured some of the firm’s key completed and upcoming work.
1. Calypso, Lebanon
Floating right above the waters of north Lebanon near Jounieh Bay, Calypso is a residential project blurring the barrier between the inside and sea outside. Hugging the rocks along the side of the road, the house is accessed from the road on the top level and required the inversion of the typical house typology.
Divided into 3 layers, one descends to increasing levels of privacy. The uppermost floor directly descends to the living room. Here the wooden ceiling slopes towards the glass, directing the eye outward and enhancing the grandiosity. The lowest level houses the private bedrooms.
Each of the structure’s dynamic angles has been carefully considered to offer an endless and uninterrupted view of the outside. On the lowest levels, this goes further to offer a continuous deck blending in with the sea. This deck goes a step further to help deflect the strong waves of the Mediterranean. Additionally, a custom patented laminated glazing and steel system was designed to withstand even the strongest waves.
Calypso won the World Architectural and Design Award 2019 in the Residential category.
2. 45 Park Place, New York
45 Park Place is a luxury residential tower located in Tribeca, New York. Typical limitations faced by a midtown block were dimmed by the cultural significance and the captivating views from above. Designed to be an icon on Lower Manhattan, the lower levels will hold a publicly accessible ‘serenity garden’ designed by Jean Nouvel, that will allow the bulk of the building above the existing skyline to offer better views.
This 43-storeyed building aims to offer four-dimensional views of the New York city skyscape. In New York, light is an opulence the architects have not neglected. Full floor houses offer an endless view, while the lower floors have higher ceilings to brighten up space even further.
3. One at Palm Jumeirah, Dubai
Located at the entrance of Palm Jumeirah, this residential project has made most of the panoramic views of the Dubai Marina to the south and the Palm to the North. Designed for the unique culture of the area, the 90 residential units have a scenic unobstructed view towards both without compromising their privacy. The building’s stacking effect offers multiple terraces that create panoramic plunging views of the outdoors. Designed around three cores, some units further opening up to infinity pools, tanning beds, or outdoor lounging areas. Right from the entrance, SOMA architects along with landscape architect Vladimir Djokovic and interior designers at Super Potato have managed to create a Zen garden between the archipelagos of Dubai.
4. Wave, Beirut
The Wave stands in stark contrast to the surrounding beige/brown buildings of Beirut, a symbol of where the city aims towards. This residential tower’s identifying exterior was designed to mitigate the excessive exposure to heat and sun faced. The parametric design involved considering both the solar and internal functional requirements to define the thickness and depth of louvers. Private spaces offered thicker shading while public or living spaces were thinner and thus brighter. This computation eventually created the namesake Waves along the façade.
Wave, also nicknamed ‘The W Residency’, has won Abboud the Architizer A+ for mid-rise buildings in 2017.
5. Dream Hotel Times Square, New York
Located near Times Square and the limitations imposed by zoning laws were the key forces behind the ‘layer-cake’ building. Taking this limitation in stride, the blocky design embraced the sky exposure planes to create the dynamic structure, additionally creating roof terraces amid cramped New York. The various functions – retail base, hotel suites, lobby and amenities, and economy rooms above are all visually and physically separated by this stacking, supported by additional material changes indicative of the function of each space.
6. Unilux, Beirut
Unilux Group is one of Lebanon’s largest suppliers of high-end light fixtures, and Abboud has used truly innovative ways to keep their products under their spotlight. The storefront design was limited to a mere 20 meters of frontage, but only 4 meters depth. Using the light at hand, they managed to add depth to the frontage, fooling the viewer while luring them in. Inside, the low ceilings were paired with a narrow cellar-like space. Barring the niches in the wall which held various products, the whole space was painted black, creating a truly unique experience.
Unilux has won Abboud the Architizer A+ for commercial-retail in 2016.
7. BOBO, Beirut
Abboud’s contribution to the Mar Mikhael neighborhood has been a truly unique one. When BOBO’s developer was denied permission to demolish the existing façade, the architects chose to work around this by gutting out the house and creating the defining parasitic crystalline design above.
This crystalline form stands out in its context, with its reflecting panels creating a distorted and new perspective for the user. The ground floor now holds retail while the 1920s house will hold high-end retail and an art gallery.
8. Amchit Bay, Lebanon
Amchit bay is a wonderful example of innovative design over sloping terrain. Understanding the site in all three dimensions, Abboud has managed to create tiered massing, similar to those used in terrace farming. This has created unique opportunities for views for each unit along with multiple private gardens and even a terrace with parking space under. The metallic skin wrapped around each building offers users the control of their privacy. While the exterior masses might look the same, variation between villas and chalets are vastly different, creating a wide span of varying combinations, while still allowing ease of access and impressive views to each.
9. Langham Place, Dubai
Within the visual proximity of Burj Khalifa, Langham Place does not squander its access to the stunning visuals around. Designed as a mixed Hotel and Service Apartment, the structure had been divided into two masses by functional needs. These are attached by a common floating plinth that serves as a garden, while also creating a majestic entrance on site. Necessitated by the climatic conditions, louvers clad the building that allows for maximum views while also mitigating the solar heat gain.
10. Koukjian Jewellery, Beirut
The Koukjian store is a jewelry store located in central Beirut. Taking the client as inspiration, Abboud has aimed to create the inside of the jewelry box. The curved white panels are reminiscent of the jagged insides of a jewel, while their spacing and lighting help elongate the space visually. These panels revolve to display various stands to display products. This design creates a striking and inviting visual within its limited frontage.