Grand Hotel de Beirut (Plot # 450 Saifi)

Grand Hotel de Beirut (Plot # 450 Saifi)

Bars, Hotels and Apartments
Beirut, Lebanon - Planned in 2012
© DW5 BERNARD KHOURY

Grand Hotel de Beirut (Plot # 450 Saifi)

Bernard Khoury / DW5 as Architects

Plot # 450 is situated on a prominent site at the northwestern edge of the Beirut Central District, with 50 meters of frontage on the Charles Helou Avenue which links Beirut to the national coastal highway. The project is to be located on a 1,628 m² plot, with an allowable built-up area of approximately 18,000 m² (gross). The proposed scheme is molded according to imposed setbacks, alignments and height restrictions, with the building’s envelope becoming a literal translation of the maximum allowable volume on this particular site. This gives rise to an assemblage of several fragmented elements of differing heights, which translate clearly as three towers. These consist of a first tower accommodating 41 apartments to be rented and operated by the developer, a second containing a hotel with 51 keys, as well as a third smaller pavilion housing a restaurant and a bar. Beirut can be described as a city of extreme situations, and these materialize into absurd representations, transcribed not only in the city’s landscape, but also in the images used to represent it. Our intervention was primarily driven by this imagery used to portray Beirut today: a depiction of idyllic and romanticized icons combined with more contemporary symbols apparent in the city’s present-day culture. Another prominent icon in Beirut’s depictions is the crane. This stems from the fact that it is a city undergoing a continual process of recovery from war, in perpetual densification and development, as well as its possible perception as a port city. Beirut is thus extremely contemporary in its complexity and contradictions. Consequently all projects linked to the tourism industry looking to inscribe themselves into the fabric of this city cannot avoid taking this into consideration. Our proposed scheme hence seeks to translate these images of fundamental social phenomena in Beirut into physically constructed devices embedded into the project. The façade is animated by four autonomous volumes. Just as the images of Beirut’s sensational stereotypes circulate, conveying euphoria and extreme fantasy, so does one of these inhabited elements. Positioned to appear as part of the restaurant pavilion’s façade, at a height of 6 meters, a crane [controlled by an electronic monitoring system] renders the 62-m² “flying” bar displaceable, with the ability to lift it vertically up to a maximal height of 80 m within the boundaries of the site. The smallest of the remaining three volumes is located on the eastern façade and contains a 17-m² lap pool connected to a junior suite of the hotel. The most prominent 24-m high volume of 80-m² in surface area houses two overlapping pools, the lower one a 47-m² indoor pool connected to the hotel’s gym, whereas the 27-m² higher one sits above and is connected to the hotel’s restaurant and terrace, open at the peripheries as well as along slits at eye level and below water level, allowing users to overlook the city as they swim. Also in keeping with a theme evoking extreme pleasure, the remaining volume accommodates a final private 28-m² swimming pool, which sits within a 14-m high arch crowning the residential building. The stationary towers of the project in which these floating elements are embedded are fully glazed on all orientations, giving way to uninterrupted 360° views. A continuous grid of 60cm deep vertical sun-breakers interlocked with 40cm deep horizontal louvers acts as a second skin to the building, and its vertical structural elements are concentrated in the cores and peripheries of the towers, giving rise to unobstructed free plans at every level. The proposed scheme is constructed around criteria not necessarily in keeping with present-day international dominating debates regarding high rise buildings, but is instead a product of a regional and cultural radicalism, with the potential to become contributive and pertinent in a more global sense.

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