Modern Architecture: Beirut Terrace

Basel-based Architects Herzog & de Meuron sent create wonders in their new project in Lebanon, the Beirut Terraces, a residential tower in the heart of the city.

Beirut Terraces
The city of Beirut finds itself at the heart of the developing Middle East. As a cosmopolitan city throughout its existence, it always figured as a cultural hub of the region and – culturally as well as geographically – functioned as a link between Europe and the Middle East. By consequence Beirut’s urban history could hardly be more diverse; remains of Phoenician, Roman, Arab, Mamluk, Ottoman and colonial rule have shaped the city and its buildings, just as its past and eventful present have left their marks.

The design of Beirut Terraces was quite literally influenced by the layers of the city’s rich and tumultuous history. The most immediate historical event, which those from Beirut will remember for generations to come, is that of the assassination of the Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, which occurred when his car detonated in front of the St.Georges Hotel, its ruins are still visible as a daily reminder. Adjacent to the site there is a vast landfill of war-debris and trash from the several bombings since the 1970’s, but in the future this will change. Despite the scarred history, there is a clear vision to rehabilitate the area, the current master-plan already well under way aims to rebuild and bring life back to this part of Beirut. The site is located in a portion of the master-plan dedicated to building office and residential high rise buildings and is closely related to a new yachting marina.

The proposed building concept, structure, and appearance are conceived by both awareness and respect for the city, as well as self-confident optimism that it shares with contemporary Beirut. The project is founded on five principles: layers and terraces, inside and outside, vegetation, views and privacy, light and identity. The result is a vertically layered building expressed by diverse sizes of slabs which create both openness and privacy and enable flexible living between in- and outside. Fine detailing and a focus on the concerted orchestration of decent materials make for an efficient and luxurious building. Conscious of energy use, the environmental engineering coupled with the integration of vegetation into the architecture, enhance the quality of living while also lending to the building’s sustainability.

Vegetation, Views and Privacy
The proposal for the vegetation blends in with the concept of the existing masterplan. The idea of a green boulevard that connects the residential high rise to its surroundings is taken up by the design and continued vertically both inside and outside of the building. The main entry, an airy high space is equipped with water ponds, plants and outlooks that open up the views to the sea in the north and the green boulevard to the east. The complement between architecture and suspended nature enlivens the spacious lobby around the central core and continues up to the balconies and terraces throughout the entire building. The entry sequence thus develops a consistent transition between the open, public landscape and private, green residences.

Being almost on the shoreline of Beirut, the sea-views are precious qualities of the project. Throughout the building’s terraces plantings create vegetated screens, which simultaneously provide shade, but, more importantly, guarantee the necessary level of privacy between the individual apartment’s terraces. Additionally, the building’s vegetation frames views and generates pleasant microclimates by tempering their immediate environment and providing an active breathing part of the architecture.

Light and Identity
Extensive overhangs provide shadow and reduce the solar gains of the building to a minimum. Wherever needed, perforations mediate the levels of light and solar exposure. Their density, shape, and shadows generate an unmistakable pattern that clearly distinguishes the identity of the tower from its surroundings. Furthermore, the relative thickness of the floor plates is substantial enough to balance the daily temperature cycles by virtue of its thermal mass, storing heat over the course of the day and releasing it during the cooler nights. It is such passive strategies that make the building a truly sustainable place to live.

To guarantee sufficient differentiation of the building volume and maintain a reasonable building ratio, the tower is made from five module floors that repeat in different combinations. The slabs of each floor protrude around their entire circumference by 60 centimeters, easing construction and maintenance of the extensive glass façades. The structure is carried by the core and a regular column-grid that spans up to 14.7 meters. Each quarter of the tower has its own lobby with elevators serving no more than two apartments at a time. For higher efficiency two lobbies share service elevators, MEP risers, and fire escapes.

The mix of apartments of different sizes and types such as simplex, duplex and townhouses with pools are distributed throughout the building to offer a variety of conditions to meet each tenant’s needs and provide each apartment with a unique identity. The apartments generally consist of three areas: a reception, private living spaces, and a service area. The reception opens to a foyer and leads to a grand living room with a spacious area for entertaining, a dining area, and a generous viewing terrace. The private space features a family living room and bedrooms including en-suite bathrooms and walk-in closets. The service area includes a kitchen with storage and laundry room attached and a maid’s bedroom with bathroom. All the main spaces like living rooms and bedrooms consistently provide a generous clear height of 3.4 meters.