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The New 'Context' in Architecture: Learning From Lebanon

00:00 - 5 April, 2013
The New 'Context' in Architecture: Learning From Lebanon, The Issam Faris Institute at the American University of Beirut's Historic Campus. Image © Zaha Hadid Architects.
The Issam Faris Institute at the American University of Beirut's Historic Campus. Image © Zaha Hadid Architects.


Context in architecture has become a subject bloated with discussion and debate over the years. And, as a matter of fact, it has come to matter very little in its formal and typological sense. Take, for instance, the fluid forms that compose Zaha Hadid’s hundreds of projects around the world, or Frank Gehry’s exploding compositions seen from South America to the unmistakable Guggenheim in Bilbao. The form architecture takes in these cases, and countless others, is in itself a deliberate disregard towards context in its literal sense.

But is this disregard for context a mistake? Observers would often say so, though I would like to disagree. It has become frequent that projects like these, largely formal and not politely accommodating their historic surrounding, actually take greater interest in social urban issues that have a direct impact on the city dwellers. Quite simply, successful architecture today is one that serves society culturally and practically, addressing tangible problems of 21st century cities and dealing with context in a solution-oriented manner, going beyond aesthetics (whose value is only temporary) and into future-invested urbanism. Case-in-point? My hometown: Beirut, Lebanon.

The Lebanese American University Campus in Byblos. Image © Nadim Asfar The Saint Joseph University Campus of Sports and Innovation. Image © 109 Architectes The Saint Joseph University Campus of Sports and Innovation. Image © 109 Architectes The Issam Faris Institute at the American University of Beirut's Historic Campus. Image © Zaha Hadid Architects. +12

USJ Campus de L’Innovation et du Sport / 109 Architects with Youssef Tohmé

01:00 - 22 December, 2011
USJ Campus de L’Innovation et du Sport / 109 Architects with Youssef Tohmé, © 109 Architectes
© 109 Architectes

© 109 Architectes © 109 Architectes © 109 Architectes © 109 Architectes +36

  • Architects

  • Location

    Beirut, Lebanon
  • Project Team

    Ibrahim Berberi , Nada Assaf, Rani Boustani, Etienne Nassar, Emile Khayat, Naja Chidiac, Richard Kassab
  • Client

    Université Saint-Joseph (USJ)
  • Budget

    $33M USD
  • Project Year

    2011
  • Photographs

Disaster Prevention and Education Center / 109 Architectes

23:00 - 19 December, 2011
Courtesy of 109 Architectes
Courtesy of 109 Architectes

109 Architectes recently took home the third prize at the 12th annual ThyssenKrupp Elevator Architecture Awards with their design for for the Disaster Prevention and Education Center in Bakırköy, Istanbul. A total of 287 projects from 59 countries were submitted to the competition. Participants were required to propose an Istanbul Disaster Prevention and Education Center on a 27,000m2 piece of land. The center will be equipped with educational resources including audiovisual equipment, simulation systems to recreate the experience of natural disasters, first aid supplies and emergency communication systems. In the center, a planetarium, library, information boards and meeting halls will serve to inform visitors. More images and project description after the break.