The Department of State’s Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) has shortlisted six design teams for the new U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. The project is part of OBO’s Excellence in Diplomatic Facilities initiative in which seeks to provide safe and functional facilities that represent the best in American architecture.
Although the thirty-nine firms who responded to the challenge all presented a “high level of design excellence, innovative site and landscape designs, and strong sustainability experience,” only these six practices will make it through to the competitions second round:
Following a brutal 15-year civil war that tore the city apart, Beirut has recovered remarkably; it was voted the number one destination to visit by the New York Times in 2009, and, more recently, received a similar title by Frommer’s. The city is in the second phase of one of the biggest urban reconstruction projects in the world, run by Solidere, which has brought architects like Steven Holl, Herzog & DeMeuron, Zaha Hadid, Vincent James, and Rafael Moneo to the local scene. In less internationalized parts of the city sit the landmarks of the 1960s and 1970s, Beirut’s pre-war glory days, including buildings by names such as Alvar Aalto, Victor Gruen, and the Swiss Addor & Julliard. With a city growing as fast as Beirut it is impossible to have a final city guide, so we look forward to hearing your suggestions and building on this over the years.
Photos and a map of Beirut’s most exciting buildings after the break…
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.
Cases from Lebanon on this new approach to context after the break…
Beirut Terraces rethinks the concept of the skyscraper, creating a vertical village composed of thin, elegant platforms layered in a playful formation. By offering lavish outdoor spaces, breathtaking views, and meticulously composed lofts, architects Herzog & DeMeuron bring an unprecedented way of living to crowded and dense Beirut.
More on these contemporary living spaces after the break…
The design proposal for NAAS Springs, a well-known wellness center and place of relaxation in Beirut, is formed by a series of walls projecting into nature. They alternate between large living spaces with roofs for residences and uncovered elongated spaces for the passages, which form an extension of nature. Designed by Hapsitus Architects, the architectural landscape is created in the spirit of water following down a sloped terrain. More images and architects’ description after the break.
Designed by architect Dina Hadi, the proposal for the Beirut Multi Art Use project represents a total art mass from the city with different rhythms and patterns. It becomes a live scene from local artists that is captured into this box. With a focus on art as a foundation base for cultures, this project becomes a model for global art beyond. Her study was also awarded the best prize at the Oslo School of Architecture under the title, ‘Excellence in Professionalism’. More images and architects’ description after the break.
John Robertson Architects (JRA) just won an international competition to design a new 16,400m2 headquarters for BANKMED in Beirut, Lebanon. Located at the center of the Mina El Hosn district and near to central Beirut, will become a landmark in Beirut and provide an innovative, stimulating and practical environment for employees, executives and the bank’s customers. Their proposal includes three interconnected office pavilions, which step up in height from 9 to 19 storeys. More images and architects’ description after the break.
Designed for Bernard Khoury of DW5 for a private residence in Beirut, .PSLAB’s aim for the staircase in this space is to highlight the distinguishing features and shape of the staircase, all the while offering a distinctive experience. inspiration in this project came from the staircase’s main characteristics. The aim was to create a lighting concept that would not only mirror these distinguishing features but also complement the structure. The constraints encountered came not from the space but from the lighting fixture itself which required special handling to turn a concept into reality. More images and architects’ description after the break.
B 018 is a music club designed by Bernard Khoury Architects, a place of nocturnal survival. In the early months of 1998, the B 018 moved to the “Quarantaine”, on a site that was better known for its macabre aura. The “Quarantaine” is located at the proximity of the port of Beirut. During the French protectorate, it was a place of quarantine for arriving crews. In the recent war it became the abode of Palestinian, Kurdish and South Lebanese refugees (20,000 in 1975). In January 1976, local militia men launched a radical attack that completely wiped out the area. The slums were demolished along with the kilometer long bordering wall that isolated the zone from the city. Over twenty years later, the scars of war are still perceptible through the disparity between the scarce urban fabric of the area and the densely populated neighborhoods located across the highway that borders the zone.
Location: Beirut, Lebanon
Design Team: Eric Bunge, Mimi Hoang (Principals); Tiago Barros, Stephen Hagmann, Hubert Pelletier (Project Architects); Seung Teak Lee, Julia Chapman, Christopher Grabow (Design Team); Competition Phase: Alice Wong (Project Designer), Dominique Gonfard, Adam Vana
Architect of Record: ABC Technical Team: Lamia Jallad, Bascir Muhanna, Johnny Salman
Client: ABC S.A.L.
Structural Engineer: BRM
Lighting Designer: DEBBAS
Project Year: 2011
Project Area: 50,000 sqm
Photographs: Courtesy of nARCHITECTS
Orange Architects, a partnership between Dutch architecture firms JSA, CIMKA and HofmanDujardin, shared with us their design of a luxury apartment block on Plot 941 in Sin el Fil, an eastern district of Beirut. The design was commissioned by the Lebanese development corporation Masharii. The 50-metre-tall block will contain 19 apartments ranging in size from 90 to 180 m2.
Follow us after the break for more on this project.
Adjacent to a central transportation artery for the city of Beirut, and situated at the nexus of two urban fabrics, this design negotiates issues of scale, unit diversity, views and zoning regulations. Stacked glass boxes emerge from a massing, which is positioned to maximize buildable area.
Architects: 109 architectes
Location: Beirut, Lebanon
Client: Université Saint-Joseph (USJ)
Partner in Charge: Ibrahim Berberi
Architect in Charge: Nada Assaf TEAM: Rani Boustani, Etienne Nassar, Emile Khayat, Naja Chidiac, Richard Kassab
Collaborating Architect: Youssef Tohme
Project Area: 57,000 sqm
Photographs: 109 architectes
Producing an image between the real and the virtual, the Emile Rassam Building, by architect Paul Kaloustian, becomes a statement of identity in Dekwaneh, Beirut, Lebanon. Through its materiality, a sense of disappearance is generated by the envelope which becomes an active instrument that reflects the changes in weather and light conditions. More images and architect’s description after the break.
Beirut Exhibition Center (BEC), is the first structure dedicated to contemporary art in the new waterfront development area. Designed by L.E.FT, the BEC responds to its location, a constantly shifting context, and contributes to a new skyline for the city. Simultaneously the interior is in constant motion with the shifting of exhibitions and as L.E.FT described, “the architecture is trapped in a dynamic state of limbo.”
Follow the break for photographs and design description by the architects.
Location: Beirut, Lebanon
Team: Daniel Colvard, Makram el Kadi, Karine Yassine, Ziad Jamaleddine, Cindy Moon, Mahdi Sabbagh, Karie Titus
Landscape Architects: Vladimir Djurovic Landscape Architecture
Contractor: Target Engineering
Project Area: 1,200 sqm
Project Year: 2010
Photographs: Courtesy of L.E.FT