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Adjaye’s Aishti Foundation nears completion

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Work is nearing completion on Adjaye Associates’ Aishti Foundation - a new mixed-use cultural centre in Beirut

The 17,600m2 scheme, which is located on a brownfield coastal site in central Beirut, features exhibition space alongside shops.

The retail floors are to one side of the building and are arranged around a central atrium while the gallery space for the Aishti Foundation is at the other end of the scheme.

The project also features a sky bar which provides views out across the city.

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The architect’s view

The juxtaposition of art and shopping presented the practice with the challenge to create a design for an entirely new typology that would integrate two, often conflicting, worlds. The concept, therefore, has been to establish a lively architectural dialogue – via a celebration of views into the different spaces (both gallery and retail) as well as a homogenising tiled design that presents a continuous language throughout the building’s floor, façade and roof. The opportunity for flexibility has been a key consideration, so that entrances to the separate uses can be distinct, but there is also the opportunity to connect the entire programme. Doorways, screens and boundaries are therefore highly flexible, demountable, sliding and adaptable.

The main entrance is punched into the façade and sits within the corner of the building, drawing visitors through the interior on a diagonal axis, which offers views to the sea. While the retail section of the building is wrapped in a solid façade and draws light from the atrium, the east façade is defined by a single large window, behind which a staircase ascends the galleries, offering a moment where the building connects back to the city. The façade has a number of layers, so that the building is like a glazed box that sits within a louvred frame. The outer layer creates an efficient passive shading system. Laterally supported, it floats around the building, with a void existing between the two layers. The geometric ‘thunderbolt’ pattern of the ceramic louvres – or ‘baguettes’ – reappears in the landscaping across the entire site, as well as on the interior tiling, and becomes a defining motif.

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Project data

Location Beirut, Lebanon
Type of project gallery and retail
Architect Adjaye Associates
Client Aishti Foundation
Structural engineer Hayek Engineering and Consulting
Total area 17,600m2
Contract value confidential

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