Posts tagged with "Beirut":

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Lebanese architect Raëd Abillama weaves Beirut’s history into contemporary designs

Beirut is a city of architectural collisions and contradictions. Buildings shelled out during Lebanon's protracted civil war, such as the much-celebrated “egg,” a half-destroyed brutalist concrete orb, stand next to glossy new construction by the likes of Foster + Partners, Zaha Hadid Architects, and Herzog & de Meuron. Preserved 19th-century mansions endure while a Disney-fied mall overtakes the city center and Roman ruins sit casually in open-air excavations downtown. Though architecture, whether it acknowledges it or not, is always in dialogue with the past, that interaction certainly becomes more pronounced when you have thousands of years of built history to contend with. Raëd Abillama, with whom I spent three days touring his architectural oeuvre, is not afraid to confront history. The first building I visit with Abillama, designed by his eponymous firm Raëd Abillama Architects, makes this abundantly clear. It's a large private home situated near the city center painted in soft pink and originally built in the 19th century. He takes me through the subterranean garage-level entrance, and a few yards ahead of me in this highly contemporary catacomb is a floor of plate glass with a chandelier suspended above. As you approach the glass floor history quite literally comes to the surface—the tripartite glass reveals a triptych of stone sarcophagi, remnants from the Roman era. Builders happened upon them as they attempted to lower the foundation, which Abillama suspects was built on what 19th-century builders thought was bedrock but was actually a giant stone slab covering the graves. It became integrated, unplanned, into the home as part of what Abillama calls “the accident of the process.” Of course, the National Museum of Beirut was brought in to preserve the findings. While we visit other grand single-family homes—many of which share similar characteristics, but as Abillama points out, trying to pin down a “Lebanese architecture” is a hopeless task—we also tour luxe new apartments. A high-rise apartment tower, Saifi 606, featuring large open spaces wrapped around a central stairwell and elevator bay, is mere minutes from some of the resplendent single-family homes we visited. Like the first home Abillama took me to, which featured a manicured enclosed terrace, these apartments also blur the boundaries of inside and out. The large floor-to-ceiling windows can slide back such that even corners disappear and the terrace bleeds into the indoor space. From here one has a view of Beirut's delirious architectural irregularity with so many buildings in various states of completion: occupied, just-started, half-completed and abandoned, damaged, soaring high and laying low in all manners of style and scale. Just 35 miles outside of the city, we visit a winery Abillama designed. IXSIR (its name coming from the Arabic word for “elixir,” the English word itself of Arabic origin), as it is called, is set on top of a mountain that rises over 3,000 feet just a few miles from the Mediterranean coast. While from above a rather idyllic stone structure set in the vineyards is all that can be seen, below something entirely different comes into view: an angular, geometric lair. However, this shift from light, quarried-stone arches to angular concrete zigzags hardly feels severe or jarring. This is in large part because of Abillama’s approach to built history. The original stone structure, constructed in the 17th century, was missing a large wall. Likely a former family home, the apocryphal story behind the damage revolves around a tradition of families having to destroy parts of their homes during feuds with neighbors. Abillama chose to rebuild this structure with reclaimed local stones, but not out of an urge toward restoration or historicization. For him, it’s about respecting the character of the structure, developing a “reinterpretation” without “falling into the trap of what’s been done.” He remains inspired by building methods of the past, and when they make more sense, they make more sense. However, this is precisely why the additional structure, which houses the operational components of the winery, looks anything but traditional. It’s a relatively independent structure from the 21st century with its own needs and, Abillama believes, it should be built as such. This attitude toward the architectural past is clearly articulated in the massive hillside residence he designed for his brother Karim. The art-filled home retains a great deal of its original 18th-century structure inside and out. It also features concrete and glass additions and many other contemporary finishes that coexist without dissonance. Many questioned the wisdom of keeping the original structure—if you’re going to restore and add on, why not just destroy the original? But for Abillama, the old stones carry a story that can be witnessed from the present. “The original stones, even the way they’re placed on top of each other, retain the soul of the house,” he says. “There’s the soul of the people who put their sweat and their work and their talent and their knowhow embedded into the building and we have to respect that.” There is a deference to the history of work without a fetishization of the styles of the past. Abillama lets the building “tell a story.” This approach, to some extent, informs his first foray into New York City. Raëd Abillama Architects will be both the designer and developer of a 19th Street lot, which they are calling Abi Chelsea. A great deal of permitting trickery was involved to keep the commercial space below and to be able to build the 10 residences above, and the demands of the relatively narrow former-industrial space guided much of the design for the elongated building with its bifurcated facade. Like Abillama’s work in Lebanon, the design is guided by listening to “what the site is telling [him and his team] to do.” And it’s fitting that Abillama’s first building in the United States should be in Chelsea, a neighborhood packed with art galleries, given that nearly every place I visited with him was packed with all varieties of painting and sculpture. But when I asked whether he designs with art in mind he’s quick to say, generally, no. “I can’t design for art because it’s too personal,” he explains, “but still, you have to open up the possibility for tenants to feel they can take true ownership of the space. It’s about creating a great canvas, where you’re removing as much as the information as possible. Sometimes creating a volume can be enough.” He also described this approach as “atemporal,” which perhaps is the aptest description of his work in general—he's actively respecting existing structures, acknowledging history, but without bowing to it, or by the same token, without obsessing over contemporaneity. He's “respecting time passing by.” Much like the built landscape of Beirut, it is the improbable amalgams and competing trajectories of time that give form to Abillama’s buildings. Witnessing and respecting built history is, according to Abillama, “a good reminder that we’re just here temporarily, and we should enjoy every moment of life instead of thinking we’re eternal.” For Abillama, each building is a thrilling memento mori.
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57th Carnegie International will bring artists who engage spatial politics around the world

The Carnegie International is the oldest exhibition of contemporary art in North America, founded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1896 just one year after the first Venice Biennale. The exhibition was designed to help identify the “Old Masters of tomorrow.” The recent announcement of participating artists in the 57th iteration of the International, which opens on October 13, 2018 at the Carnegie Museum of Art (CMoA) in Pittsburgh, is a look at who these new "old masters" might be. Curated by Ingrid Schaffner, who was chief curator at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Philadelphia before taking the helm of the International in 2015, the list lives up to her reputation for taking an expansive approach to contemporary art. While only one artist has an architectural background—Saba Innab, an architect and urban researcher practicing between Amman and Beirut—several of the exhibition’s artists explore questions of territory, body, commodity, craft, agency, and spatial practice. The participants are all working on site-specific works for the CMoA, so this International will certainly be an immersive and provocative museum experience. Here’s a look at what’s to come. Innab’s work, pictured above, explores the relationship between architecture and territory, exemplified by her cast depicting the rock of Gibraltar in the 2016 Marrakech Biennale. It is fitting, then, that she will install work in dialogue with the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Hall of Architecture, a historic collection of plaster casts of building fragments from around the world. Postcommodity, an interdisciplinary arts collective that explores “Indigenous narratives of cultural self-determination,” will also address spatial and cultural politics head-on. Their recent work, Repellent Fence (2015), for example, was a 2-mile work that consisted of 26 balloons stretching across the U.S.-Mexico border. The design of the balloons references both indigenous iconography and “an ineffective bird repellent product,” and signal unity between indigenous peoples, the land, and history. Park McArthur is a New York-based artist whose work examines notions of accessibility, agency, and the city. Her 2014 exhibition at ESSEX GALLERY, for example, gathered the improvised ramps used by twenty galleries in Lower Manhattan in a minimalist arrangement on the gallery floor. Similarly, at SFMOMA in 2017, where she displayed design drawings and improvised ramps made by family and friends to accommodate her wheelchair in everyday spaces. The Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center will host works by Jessi Reaves, known for her sculptural furniture that looks both familiar and somewhat grotesque, with common materials assembled in unsettling combinations that plays with ideas of incompletion in art and design. Reaves’ voluptuous recliners will neighbor work by Beverly Semmes and her Feminist Responsibility Project (FRP), which explore issues of censorship and the female body overlaying paint onto pages of “gentlemen’s magazines.” The FRP is one project in Semme’s practice, which otherwise operates at an architectural scale. Schaffner describes Beverly Semmes' art as flowing “from the female body and out into the landscape,” with flowing dresses the scale of a room. New Dehli-based photographer Dayanita Singh’s concern for the physical relationship between the viewer and the photograph has led her into an exploration of architectural and spatial arrangements for her work. Singh designs standalone “museums” for her photographs that, as she described in a recent talk at the Silver Eye Center for Photography in Pittsburgh, “liberate the photograph from the wall.” Koyo Kouoh, a Dakar-based “exhibition-maker,” will similarly take the visitor’s relationship to artwork into her own hands. Kouoh is founding artistic director of RAW Material Company in Dakar, Senegal, and for the International she will organize “Dig Where You Stand.” This exhibition within an exhibition will mine the Carnegie Museums’ collections to reconfigure the galleries devoted to “Pre-1300, African, and Asian Art.” “Koyo’s piece would be a lever for clearing this out, something the museum has wanted to do for a long time, a rupture so that we can begin again,” Schaffner said. Though probing the term “international,” the exhibition meaningfully ties into Pittsburgh’s artists and histories. Conceptual artist Mel Bochner will make a homecoming, and Pittsburgh-based artists Lenka Clayton & Jon Rubin will develop a new work based on the International’s archives. This International will feature sculptor Thaddeus Mosley, whose wooden carvings were inspired by the Internationals of the early 1950s. Photograph from the archives of Teenie Harris, a prolific photojournalist for the Pittsburgh Courier, will offer a new look at the post-industrial city’s past. Though the International opens in October, the fun is already underway. One of Schaffner’s aims is to spark “museum joy” in visitors. In fact, the curatorial team is sharing the delight of all aspects of the exhibition, from the design process to the curatorial research, through the International’s website. Wkshps founder Prem Krishnamurthy’s article chronicles the charrettes that brought the editorial, curatorial, and design teams together early in the process to, in Schaffner’s words, “design for the unknown.” Travelogue essays written by writers who weren’t with Schaffner on her extensive travel research take the reader into new territories nonetheless. Illustrator Maira Kalman’s fanciful interpretation of Schaffner’s pilgrimage to Zaha Hadid’s Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan and historian Markus Rediker’s analysis of Vodou Surrealism in response to a curatorial trip to the Caribbean are particularly worth a read. Following Andrew Carnegie’s ambitions for the museum, Schaffner has tasked each artist to lead a public workshop, or “Tam O’Shanter drawing session.” Thaddeus Mosley has already done a workshop on jazz playlists, and a class used coffee to paint with Ho Chi Minh City-based collective Art Labor. In April, visitors can make zines with Mimi Cherono Ng’ok and artifact critters with Lucy Skaer. With many more events to be announced in coming months, this is already a very playful and political exhibition not to be missed.
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Hala Wardé’s studio, HW Architecture, wins Beirut Museum of Art design competition

Lebanese and French architect Hala Wardé and her studio HW Architecture has been awarded the commission to design the new Beirut Museum of Art (BeMA) in Lebanon. Situated in the center of the Lebanese capital, Wardé's design sees a “Central Campanile Tower” climb to almost 400 feet, aiming to be seen by many far and wide across the city as a symbol of unity. Aside from HW Architecture's winning proposal, New York–based firm WORK Architecture Company (WORKac) was given a special mention by the jury.

The submission from Wardé was chosen from a final shortlist of 13 and selected by a jury comprising Lord Peter Palumbo (chair); Rem KoolhaasLord Richard Rogers, Serpentine Gallery curators Hans Ulrich Obrist and Dame Julia Peyton-Jones. Zaha Hadid, now an honorary member, was on the jury until her passing last year.

From a museum perspective, BeMA will be dedicated to displaying art and design as well as contemporary Lebanese culture. As for Wardé's design, the tower will offer a place for artists to reside as well as room for studios and performance areas. Surrounding the Campanile Tower is a publicly accessible garden that will feature a series of site-specific art installations. The site—now part of the Université Sant-Joseph—was once a borderline within Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War. Provisions have been made in Wardé's proposal to ensure connectivity to the university is available.

“I am delighted and honored to realize my first major project in the city of Beirut where I was born, on such an exceptional site,” said Wardé. “This museum program, in connection with the university, will allow us to create a new cultural and social space with a garden and amphitheater, and will single out this artistic territory with a strong and recognizable urban beacon, which through its multiple expressions, will belong to the new urban landscape of the city.”

BeMA is due to be open by 2020, while dates for groundbreaking are yet to be released.

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Snøhetta unveils their design for Beirut tower after triumphing in competition

New York and Oslo-based studio Snøhetta has released images of their design for the Banque Libano Francaise (BLF) headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon. In what will be Snøhetta's first project in the country, the design features a plethora of vegetation sprayed across the building's openings. "The design for the new general headquarters points towards a new future both for the bank and for the city and community of which it is a part," the firm said. "The BLF headquarters should be recognizable with all its public qualities independently of evolving corporate strategies or changing demands on the interior spaces. It embodies a new future for the bank, as well referencing the rich history and value set that has evolved over generations." Wrapped in a skin of checkerboard voids, each which hold a window, the orthogonal system is replicated at a much larger scale to form the building's overall structure. Snøhetta describes the concept as "both generic and conceptual at the same time," with the building taking an aesthetic reminiscent of a Tetris formation. The style also facilitates the opening of wide-birthing terraces which house the greenery while providing much needed shading from the Lebanese summer sun. With temperatures averaging 82 degrees fahrenheit during this period, these will serve as both meeting places and spots to take in the expansive views across the city. Indeed, the structure's relationship to its context was a key driver in the design phase; the firm describes how the "public base" connects at street level. "Maintaining a high degree of permeability at street level is an essential element for the project, ensuring connectivity across the site and with the wider neighborhood," Snøhetta added on their website. Other parameters focused on economic and environmental factors. "The project must be fundamentally economically viable," they continued, going on to say "[it] must give back to the city and complement the existing urban context" and "must respond to the environment both in regard to energy consumed and with regard the embodied energy of the structure." “We are delighted to enter into this creative partnership with the BLF. In a time of profound change and transformation, the BLF is an ideal partner for Snøhetta with our shared ideals of sustainability, community, and dialogue,” said Snøhetta founding partner Kjetil T. Thorsen.
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13 architects shortlisted for just-named Beirut Museum of Art

Last mid-April, the non-profit arts organization Association for the Promotion and Exhibition of the Arts in Lebanon (APEAL) announced a group of 13 shortlisted architects for their new initiative: to design and establish a new modern and contemporary art museum in Beirut, Lebanon. At the time, the museum was unnamed. This week, we learned the official name of the museum: Beirut Museum of Art (BeMA). Lord Peter Palumbo is chairing the independent design competition jury that includes a mix of international curators and artists, as well as the architects Lord Richard Rogers, Fares Al Dahdah, George Arbid, and Rodolphe Khoury. The late Zaha Hadid was also on the jury. "The museum will not only alter the panorama around it, but also recuperate at an urban scale the cultural dimension that local developers and municipality members envisaged for the city as early as 1915," said jury member and architect Fares el Dahdah. "It has the potential to form a new cultural center of Beirut." The jury selected the thirteen firms from a group of 66 architects of Lebanese origin working out of 16 countries. They include: 109 Architectes s.a.r.l. Bernard Khoury / DW5 Hashim Sarkis Studios, LLC HW architecture ibda design IDC / Verner Johnson ETEC SA L.E.FT Architects Lina Ghotmeh / DGT Architects Najjar Najjar Architect Raëd Abillama Architects / Nadim Khattar WORK Architecture Company (WORKac) Yatsu Chahal Architects (YCa) Said Jazari Consulting Office (SJCO) Youssef Tohme Architects and Associates (YTAA) New York City-based WORKac is helmed by Dan Wood and GSAPP Dean Amale Andraos. For the competition's phase two, the thirteen firms are tasked with creating concept designs and strategies for the Université Saint-Joseph-owned site in Beirut. "Physically, the building will naturally respond to the needs of its program; it will feature multiple gallery spaces, a community art space, and spaces that can be used for conservation, documentation, public education or discussion programs, and artists-in-residence," said APEAL president, Rita Nammour. "A goal of the project is also to provide respite from the surrounding vibrant cityscape by providing a public green space." APEAL is searching for a director and assembling a curatorial team. While the modern and contemporary art collection is still under development, Nammour said it will include "visual arts, painting, sculpture, works on paper, new media, photography, video, performing arts, film, architecture, and design." The museum will feature mostly Lebanese and Middle Eastern art, but also include works by international artists. "Situated adjacent to the demarcation line of the country's devastating civil war, the new museum aims to be a unifying national platform that will bring together diverse populations and narratives as well as strengthen civil society and participation," said Nammour. "BeMA: Beirut Art Museum will be an anchor within Beirut’s new 'museum mile,' home to the National Museum and Museum of Lebanese Prehistory, the Mineral Museum (MiM), and will soon include Beit Beirut (House of Beirut), and Metropolis Center."   APEAL is working with Temporary.Art.Platform on an artist-in-residence program called "Works on Paper" that is connecting commissioned artists with four daily Lebanese newspapers. "In the lead up to its opening BeMA will continue to build connections through key bridges with other existing cultural institutions," said Nammour. Beirut has seen a flurry of arts and culture museum development in the past few years. "The creative ferment is happening even as unrest in the region and domestic political instability have ground the economy and tourism to a near halt and threaten to embroil Lebanon in new conflicts," reported the New York Times this past October 2015. "How the city can contain such contradictions is a testament to its vivacity, history of surviving sectarian conflicts and long-established art scene." The jury will select the winning design this fall 2016. The museum is expected to open in 2020.
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In Beirut, a group of activists seeks to protect a coastal area by setting up a grassroots design ideas competition

In the last two decades, Beirut’s real estate market boomed and transformed the city. One of the yet non-developed areas of the city is a coastal area called Dalieh. Despite the fact that this area is privately owned, it was used as an openly accessible space by the public for years. However, recent development plans, aiming to build a high-end real estate complex, would largely change the open access and current character of this space. A group of activists called "Civil Campaign to Protect the Dalieh of Raouche," rejects those plans and advocates for the protection of the social, archeological and ecological significance of this space. They addressed those concerns, for example, in an open letter to Rem Koolhaas, who was creating design ideas for the development of the site. However, this campaign is not stopping at opposing current development plans, they are also proposing alternatives for the future use of this space. Last spring, they organized a design ideas competition under the auspices of the Lebanese Ministry of Environment. The crowdfunded campaign set up an international jury of various professionals, including Jad Tabet, Lebanese architect and member of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, and the German landscape architect Hans Kienle. At the end of May, the jury selected three winning entries which were exhibited during the Beirut Design Week in June and will be published in a booklet in coming months. Sarah Lily Yassine, engaged in the campaign, said that “the competition was successful, to engage more people and to show the institutions that there are alternatives to consider on such a site.” Even though the competition was not aiming to directly implement the resulting ideas, it sought to generate a debate about urban issues in Beirut, and in cities in general. Marwan Ghandour, professor of architecture and juror of the competition, describes this as “a competition which talks about something which is claimed by the people as an open space rather than something which is delivered by the government as a public space”. As an example of those spaces, Dalieh is called an “open access shared space” by the campaign. The idea of a grassroots design ideas competition shows an interesting model to trigger a debate about these spaces and also to generate new ideas for the future of our urban fabrics. Below, some images of the three winning entries:
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Six Design Teams Shortlisted for New U.S. Embassy in Beirut

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) has shortlisted six firms to design the new U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. The new Embassy will be located in Awkar, about 7 miles north of the city center, in the vicinity of the existing Embassy. The new compound will consist of a chancery, support offices, a parking structure, Marine residence, Representational and staff housing, and a community center. Thirty-nine firms replied to the public announcement regarding the task of designing the center. The shortlisted firms are: · Diller Scofidio + Renfro · Mack Scogin Merrill Elam/AECOM · Morphosis Architects · Rafael Viñoly Architects · Steven Holl Architects · Yazdani Studio According to the OBO, the six selected submissions display an exceptional array of high-design projects, characterized by novel site and landscape plans, and a strong understanding of sustainability practices. The firms on the preliminary shortlist will bring together their technical teams to present comprehensive information on their companies and their credentials for the second evaluation stage. OBO’s Excellence in Diplomatic Facilities initiative sought out the project, which encompasses a holistic project development plan that aims to construct facilities that are exceptional in all aspects. OBO’s objective is to supply secure, practical facilities that signify American values and the best in American architecture, engineering, technology, and sustainability.
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New iPad App Explores the Architecture and Urban Design of Berlin, Beirut & Venice

archipeligo_01 Architecture and urban design apps are appearing so fast its hard to keep up with the latest new site to investigate city history and growth. But a new one—Archipelago Town-lines—is the result of a 3 year-long research on three key places: Berlin, Beirut, and Venice. It uses original photo galleries, video, and audio content and interactive data visualization features, as a guide for new urban geography, history, and lifestyle of these three very different cities. These places are then place holders for the analysis of contemporary urban trends, in order to propose a new possibility for growth. A second app second section puts forwards a new model for urban growth based on 9th century Venice and the figure of the archipelago whose archetype is to be found in a place built in the impossible like Venice, namely a place in which un-built areas have the same importance as built ones. The third section of the app features video interviews of prominent architects, urban planners, and academicians, specifically produced for it, that suggest imaginary path and different reading of the urban phenomenon stimulated by the app itself. Archipelago Town-lines has been released in English as an app for the iPad. In April, it will be available for Amazon Kindle Fire and all tablets operating on an Android platform. It's worth a download!