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Zaha finally unwraps new facility for Beirut university


Work has finally finished on Zaha Hadid’s new Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI) at the American University of Beirut (AUB)

The practice landed the 3,000 m² project more than eight years ago following an international competition. The long-awaited scheme, with its huge cantilever, was originally scheduled to complete in 2008 (see below).

Sitting within the wider campus masterplan by Sasaki Associates, the building houses offices, seminar rooms, workshops, an underground auditorium, reading room, lounge and roof terrace.

The practice describe the scheme as a ‘neutral, dynamic, civil, and open space where people representing all viewpoints in society can gather and discuss significant issues’.

Zaha Hadid Architects teamed up with local architect Rafik El Khoury & Partners and London-based mechanical engineers ZEF on the designs.

The architect’s view

‘The design significantly reduces the building’s footprint by ‘floating’ much of the institute’s facilities above the entrance courtyard to preserve the existing landscape integral to the 2002 masterplan, create a new public space for the campus, and establish links from the university’s Central Oval to the Middle Campus and Mediterranean Sea to the north.

‘The building is defined by the many routes and connections within the university; interweaving the pathways and views within the campus to create a forum for the exchange of ideas - a centre of interaction and dialogue - at the heart of the university.

‘The design introduces new links between the Central Oval with the forested area of the Middle Campus and sea beyond. Existing Ficus and cypress trees on the IFI site (aged between 120 and 180 years old) are integral to the design. The building emerges from the geometries of intersecting routes as a series of interlocking platforms and spaces for research, engagement and discourse.

‘The institute invites the community inside via the many connections and paths that converge at its double-height entrance courtyard. This new civic space for the university is a covered outdoor terrace and extension of the shaded area beneath the existing trees - a place for chance meetings and informal discussion - located at the nexus of pathways that traverse the site.

‘A ramp leads between the trees to connect the research lounges on the second floor directly with the campus, while the first floor seminar room and offices are accessed at grade from the east and public courtyard to the west. These routes meet within the IFI to describe the atrium hall; establishing the institute as a crossroads - a central hub for students, faculty, researchers and visitors.

‘The block’s reading room, conference workshops and research rooms ‘float’ above the exterior courtyard. The 100-seat auditorium is on the lowest level with its own entrance to the north, enabling the institute to host larger conferences and presentations without disrupting students, fellows and researchers working throughout the building. Internal partitions are in ink-pigmented glass to enable communication and interaction.

‘The building takes full advantage of the region’s tradition and expertise of working with in-situ concrete. Passive design measures, high efficiency active systems and recycled water technologies minimise the building’s impact on the local and wider environment.

‘The design builds upon the institute’s mission as a catalyst and connector between the university, researchers and the global community. Routes, views and links within the campus converge to define the IFI as a three-dimensional intersection; a space for university’s students, fellows and visitors to meet, connect and engage with each other and the wider world.’


Project data

Total site area: 7,000 m²
New exterior spaces: 4,000 m²
Total floor area: 3,000 m²
Auditorium capacity: 100 seats
Floors: six
Maximum height: 22m
Length of cantilever: 21m

Construction Data
Total surface of fair-faced concrete: 6,000 m²
Total surface area of glazing: 800 m²
Concrete cast in-situ: 4,200 m³
Total Steel used for structure: 800 kg
Employees on site: 90 (builders & technicians) for 1,100 days
Total working hours: 500,000 hours

Previous story (AJ 22.02.2006)

Another day; another commission- Zaha picks up yet more work

Zaha Hadid has been chosen to design a new facility for Beirut’s American University.

The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI) building by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) at the American University of Beirut (AUB)

The six-storey building for the Issam M Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs will create a home for both students and researchers specialising in Middle Eastern politics.

Working alongside engineers Arup, the Pritzker-prize winner has come up with a design for a 1,800m 2 building, which will house an underground auditorium, seminar rooms, research lounges and roof-top reading rooms.

Describing the scheme, a practice spokesman said: ‘The building emerges fluidly from the geometry of the surrounding network of public paths, as opposed to sitting on the land as an isolated object.

‘The form of the building flows as an undulating extension of the site moving up to create different dynamic spaces and then vanishes back into the terrain.’

Landscape architect Gross Max also worked on the project, which is due for completion in 2008.




Readers' comments (2)

  • another of Zaha's same copy cat project all based on looks and an obsession with skew formed spaces. Why spend so much money on pointless results?

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  • Alex Seymour

    Is it possible they built it upside down by mistake?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

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