Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects – Client: American University of Beirut
‘This building asserts confidently that we are not a university that stays rooted in time and place; rather we challenge conventional thinking and actively promote change and new ideas’, says Peter Dorman, President of the American University of Beirut (AUB), of the Issam Fares Institute, the latest addition to the AUB. In terms of its form, the building is undeniably bold, yet it also displays a sensitivity towards time and place – towards the context, both built and topographical.
The context in this case is the AUB’s upper campus, set on a hilltop with views of the Mediterranean. In the immediate vicinity are four historic buildings and some equally venerable – c 150-year-old – cypress and ficus trees, as well as one of the most important open areas on the campus, the Green Oval. Responding to the givens of the site, the architects significantly reduced the building’s footprint by cantilevering a large part of the structure over the entrance courtyard – a move that also draws the space of the adjacent Green Oval towards the base of the new building. The existing landscape is preserved, including all of the old trees, which form a kind of datum line determining the height of the institute, as is evident from a look at the south facade. Further connections with the landscape are established by the roof terrace, with its expansive views, and by the circulation ramp that snakes smoothly through the trees to the southern entrance on the second floor.
The Issam Fares Institute – a research centre for public policy and international affairs – has a combined surface area of 3,000m2, divided into six floors. Its facilities include research spaces and administration offices, seminar and workshop rooms, an auditorium, reading room, recreational lounge and roof terrace. The interiors are divided by walls of partially pigmented glass (though the original idea was for the glazing to be clear, for maximum transparency). The structure is of high-quality in-situ reinforced concrete, in tune with the local construction culture of working with concrete, and particularly fair-face concrete.
“As the last in a series of buildings, the Issam Fares Institute completes the central oval courtyard of the upper campus of American University of Beirut, located on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. This educational building solves a dense programme within a surprisingly small footprint in a manner that is sensitive to its context. With its contemporary form and the purity of its architectural language the building differentiates itself from its neighbours, though it is not in conflict with the campus and its architecture.”
“Cantilevering over the courtyard and overlooking the old cypress and ficus trees, the building presents an extremely powerful and authentic volumetric structure without obstructing the view of the buildings behind. The building’s height, matched with that of the trees and the surrounding structures, serves to strengthen the powerful relationship it creates with its context. Throughout, a fluid planning strategy has turned to advantage the level variances of the site, and a welcoming environment has been created by providing entrances at various levels via ramps that weave through existing trees, in the process becoming part of the landscape themselves.”
“The building makes a courageous – and at the same time fully respectful – contribution to the multilayered physical environment of this historic and rooted university campus. With its simple, exposed concrete surface and strong volumetric presence, it is an elegant yet unique solution to a complex and special context.”
About Zaha Hadid Architects: http://www.zaha-hadid.com
Zaha Hadid Architects is a global leader in pioneering research and design investigation. Collaborations with corporations that lead their industries have advanced the practice’s diversity and knowledge, whilst the implementation of state-of-the-art technologies has aided the realisation of fluid and dynamic architectural structures. Hadid’s vision redefined architecture for the 21st century and captured imaginations across the globe. Her legacy endures within the DNA of the design studio she created. Working with office partner Patrik Schumacher for three decades, Zaha Hadid Architects’ work arranges form and space into breathtaking spatial compositions.
Zaha Hadid’s work of the past 30 years was the subject of critically acclaimed exhibitions at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2006, London’s Design Museum in 2007, the Palazzo della Ragione, Padua, Italy in 2009 and the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2011. Zaha Hadid Architects recently completed the Salerno Maritime Terminal in Italy and Oxford University’s Middle East Centre at St Antony’s College. The practice is currently working on a diversity of projects worldwide including the new Beijing Airport Terminal Building in Daxing, China, the Sleuk Rith Institute in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the King Abdullah Financial District Metro Station in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and the new Mathematics Gallery at
London’s Science Museum. Zaha Hadid Architects’ portfolio also includes cultural, academic, sporting and infrastructure projects across six continents.
|Total site area||7,000 m2|
|Total floor area||3,000 m2|
|Building footprint||560 m2|
|Design||July 2007 – December 2009|
|Construction||January 2010 – April 2014|
Aga Khan Award for Architecture Website
2016 Nominated Projects
Researched & Compiled by Arif Ali