Success Stories

Charbel Etel

Dark Times, Bright Lights

My name is Charbel A. Etel. I graduated with a Master in Architecture from the USEK School of Architecture and Design in the Spring of 2019.

In 2017, I took part in the “Unbuild the Wall” competition in Nogales, Mexico. My project, titled The Wound, earned an honorable mention and won second place in the Public Choice Award. Fast forward a couple of years to my graduation, my project, titled Bittersweet Rebirth: The Rise of a Legend, was starting to take shape after two long years of research and design development. Revolving around the idea of rehabilitating the structure of Burj El Murr in downtown Beirut, the project achieved success in the final year project showdown USEK and was unanimously chosen by the jury as the top project of the Class of 2019. A couple of months later, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) organized a competition in Chicago, USA in which my senior year project reached the semi-finals in the Student Skyscraper Competition, edging out 120 other projects.

Shortly afterwards, Lebanon entered the dark tunnel of hyperinflation, economic collapse, and political instability against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like any other young graduate, this turn of events represented a major setback for all my dreams, ambitions, and future plans. However, in the face of adversity, one is called to push through the hard times and try finding solutions. It was then that I decided to launch Pilcrow Architects, a start-up architecture studio focused on architectural and interior design. Growth was slow at the beginning, but every new project boosted my experience, and I was able to attract new clients from all over the world. Across Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Ivory Coast, Cyprus, Argentina, and the USA, my tasks covered architectural design, shop drawings, and architectural visualizations and rendering.

Amidst all this turmoil, one major event changed the face of the country, the Beirut port blast on August 4, 2020 at 6:07 p.m. This tragic event called for a memorial to commemorate the victims of the explosion, prompting me to start planning the Freedom’s Anchor. After sharing the project on social media platforms, the positive feedback from friends, family, and strangers was overwhelming. Lebanese NGO Believe contacted me to develop the project, which was unveiled on television in July 2021 through the Convention – LB where I personally presented it to the public. A couple of months later, Freedom’s Anchor – The Beirut Blast Memorial won first prize at the UK-based Young Visionary Architecture Competition 2021 (YVAC) – Monument Category and featured in L’Orient-Le Jour on October 12, 2021.

Today, I am still working on developing my business, looking for opportunities and competitions to grow and make my country proud on an international scale. I would not have been able to score all these achievements without the unconditional support of my family, friends, instructors, and colleagues.

As I look back to the milestones I have reached, I realize that the road ahead is long and the hardships are many but, as Saint Francis of Assisi puts it: “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
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