Morphosis Architects has been selected from a shortlist of three to design the new U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) chose Morphosis over Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Mack Scogin Merrill Elam with AECOM after conducting a series of presentations and interviews in the third round of the international competition.
“Morphosis presented a strong, cohesive team with over 50 years of collaborative experience. Their presentation demonstrated the management and design approach required to successfully execute this project, as well as a thorough understanding of the importance and impact of an American Embassy in Beirut.
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 by 109 Architectes, their proposal in the Zaarour Club Competition, which won the second prize, takes advantage of the natural setting while creating a distinctive yet unobtrusive project identity. Consequently, the primary challenge with the Zaarour Resort is to construct the density required while still respecting and incorporating the rich natural environment. 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.
The design proposal by Najjar-Najjar Architects for the Zaarour Club Project intends to combine a year-round destination for mountain lovers in Lebanon with the requirements for a sustainable development in Zaarour. In this regard, the architects believe that it is most important to balance the development of real estate with attractions and activities in a healthy environment. The concept considers different functions and facilities in order to attract diverse users groups of all ages during the year. More images and architects’ description after the break.
“In order for a pain to be healed… you have to acknowledge the fact that this pain has occurred” Maya Lin. Construction of the first memorial began in 1966 (during Soviet times) in response to the 1965 Yerevan demonstrations during which one million people demonstrated in Yerevan for 24 hours to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Genocide.
Inspired by the above events as well as the specificity of this memorial regarding the site conditions, the winning design of the project by Etienne Bastormagi Architects had to undergo a conceptual brainstorm. The design proposes a space – not only to remember the ones that died through the act of genocide-that is designed to celebrate the ones that have survived and helped us reach to our existing status. 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.