Architecture City Guide: Beirut

© Flickr User Omar Chatriwala

Following a brutal 15-year civil war that tore the city apart, 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…

The New ‘Context’ in Architecture: Learning From Lebanon

The Issam Faris Institute at the American University of ’s Historic Campus. Image © .

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…

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

© 109 Architectes

Architects: 109 Architects with Youssef Tohmé
Location: ,
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: 109 Architectes