NRJA proposal for Beirut's House of Arts and Culture

NRJA proposal for Beirut's House of Arts and Culture

NRJA, previously featured on our AD Futures series, shared their entry for the House of Arts and Culture competition in Beirut, Lebanon.

Project description and images after the break.

Proposal for the House of Arts and Culture (the Lebanese-Omani Centre) is based on principles incorporated within competition’s guideline and architecture brief. The House of Arts and Culture tend to become the first centre of this kind in Lebanon providing a governmental support to the already active movement of free creativity. This space for the first time in the country’s history will gather multicultural contents and public in an independent arena to contribute open exchange and interaction between the largest number of Lebanese.

Visual image and character of the new building has an important role for becoming a landmark. By appearing in cityscape the centre opens up to the public and invites people for free public gatherings. Importance above all is choosing a logogram / Lebanon historically have been crossroads for Orient and West as well as home for different cultures, nationalities and religions, the C House is to be exceptional place standing apart from any kind of strong spiritual symbols. By choosing a graphic interpretation of local nature element – cedar cone, a recognizable image of new centre is found. Pastiche of this element is implemented into architectural expressions and project’s overall concept idea. Cedar refers to a national emblem – the Cedar of Lebanon, also having direct relation to historical happening “The Cedar Revolution” per independence and free thought. Cedar cone symbolizes openness and home for cedar nuts – open-minded ideas. “C” for “The C House” expresses idea of Cedar Cone, Culture, Community, Creativity, Communication, Cinema and any other activity or content of the centre.

Urban objectives are basically coherent to the given plot of new building hence providing several preconditions for spatial, functional and architectonic principles. Locality of the site is well integrated into the city’s functional structure and is easy accessable for locals by any kind of vehicle or on foot. Therefore achieving a good visibility from different sides and views is especially aimed in the project. Height of the new building correspond the regulation of 32 m, which defines the surrounding housing. Site plan organization provide easy accessibility from main road – Avenue du General Fouad Chehab – by using pedestrian ramps in both sides of the building. One of the ramps leads straight to the main entrance on the Rue Ahmad el Jabbouri, whereas the other is guiding people to pathway along the C House cafeteria. One can easily get by car to service delivery and underground car park entrances from new streets on East and West side of the site. The main entrance is located in front of the city’s square greenery therefore a step back from the street assures preserving of the existing trees and provides strong spatial connection with the public open space.

Architectural objective is stated by functional and conceptual setup of the building. This House of Arts and Culture is due to appear into the city’s face as observable and admissive object instead of having imposing look. Transparency is important to provide lucidity from both sides – inside and outside – accordingly tearing down borders of the building and the city. It gives opportunity to drug people from the street into activities taking place in the C House as participants or just bystanders. Large glazing of main atrium attracts passers by telling true story of culture life and events inside.

Functional and spatial organization principles of the multifunction centre have been particularly expounded in the project program and architectural brief, serving as a basic guideline for planning structure. The object’s grate role of main cultural actor of the city is not limited to a physical volume in lieu of that, it provides advanced means of media to ensure boundless communication. Among basic functions housed in the centre will be exhibitions, concerts, theatre events and other smaller activities with local and international society interaction. The C House will provide different types of space for variety functions therefore functional layout has basically defined the clear organization within a space. Main atrium – central element of the building – opens to the city’s square in the North merging indoor and outdoor spaces together. It functions as traditional Southern inner yard – a public square where people can meet, rest and interact with cultural processes. Atrium is also important to orient within the building and to understand the spatial structure of the space. It is covered with perforated concrete structure at 6th level providing soft lighting and shadow plays on the surrounding white surfaces.

Functions and spaces: 1st level is a major meeting space and public area with high vitality and openness to public activities all day long. Functions like – lobby lounge, reception and info desk, cafeteria, bookshop and small performance hall are placed in close relation to the main entrance. As the central element while entering the building open up grand stairs leading to the 3rd level and the large performance hall. The stairs are set in front of glazed atrium façade and serves for vertical circulation at the same time enabling lounge function – people can sit there enjoying the view outside or activities taking place into the small performance hall. Several functions like cafeteria and small performance hall are planned to act separately of entire building if needed, but the hall is also easy to merge with the atrium or connect to a street. The Southern part of the level houses storage rooms and other technical premises, including service entrances and car entry to underground parking.

2nd level has a good visibility and spatial link to the entrance level. Exhibition space with over 1000 m2 and it’s service rooms (exhibition workshop, meeting room, toilets) occupies half of the floor. The big exhibition hall is fully modular space suitable for paintings, photographs, sculptures, media art, video installations and other expositions. Rest of the 2nd level is taken by technical premises and block of dressing rooms for performing artists.

3rd level houses the large performance hall, movie theatre, art workshop and a documentation centre, as well as a lobby bar with terrace. Passages for circulation have extra functions for people to enjoy their staying in the House, for example, video walls, art pieces, greenery, lounge areas and etc. Most dominant volume – the large performance hall is set on main axis of the grand stairs and has a classic Italian theatre layout. The scene has mobile under-stage option to deliver trucks with heavy sets and might be transformed for different performances as required. Seats in the hall are mechanically transformable to accommodate the space for different usage.

4th level continues functional division of the building into two blocks with atrium open space in between. West wing places documentation centre offices, but in the East block library and reading rooms are accessable for public. Walkway along wall of the large performance hall gives opportunity to get new impressions of the city and an interesting activity in brake time of a performance.

5th level provides space for workshops and the National Cinematheque. This structure belonging to the Ministry of Culture has as much informative function as scientific and preserving purpose, therefore wide range of public open and close rooms are in need.

6th and 7th level is placing workshops and administration rooms. Offices are proposed in different sizes and planning to ensure wide spectrum of administrative while designing workshop and office areas is to provide an easy connection with outdoor open spaces – terraces.

8th level similarly to the 7th level consists of separated volumes placed on roof terraces. Theatre and music workshop, as well as dance training room are ideally convenient for these solitary premises and spacious roof terraces enable extending functions outdoor.

Three underground levels are basically for parking and technical premises. Car park is easy accessable and is considered to provide coherent logistics. Delivery to storage and technical rooms is organized from street level on East side of the building, but entrance to the parking in the West façade thus avoiding intersection of different flows.

Technical and building solutions are advised in the project development process and foresaw basic principles for construction. The main construction material is ferroconcrete with column netting 8.1 by 8.1 m. Different structure is used for three largest arenas – both performance halls and the cinema, therefore – to ensure height and necessary span of ceiling construction – metal frame construction is proposed. The coverage of the atrium space are perforated concrete slabs with glass fill. For façade finishes different kind of materials are used to fulfill the needs of different functions. Closed volumes – the large and small performance hall as well as the cinema – are covered with translucent concrete blocks (LiTraCon). For blind parts of the building decorative concrete tiling with imprint of cedar cone pattern is proposed. The space in between these different size volumes is taken by light materials – fully transparent as well as white translucent glass hence tearing down the physical border of the volume and surroundings.

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About this author
Cite: Sebastian Jordana. "NRJA proposal for Beirut's House of Arts and Culture" 22 Apr 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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