Lebanese design firm GM Architects will be presenting its “Museum of Civilization” at the Time Space Existence exhibition of the 2014 Venice Biennale. The firm will be the only group representing Lebanon at this year’s exhibition. Their museum design addresses the Biennale’s theme of fundamentals by exploring the historical basis of architectural culture in the rich and varied context of their home country.
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…