Zaha Hadid uses concrete and cantilevers
for Issam Fares Institute in Beirut

| 13 comments
 

Zaha Hadid has completed a top-heavy building for the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, which cantilevers out over a public courtyard and a series of elevated pathways (+ slideshow).

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Hufton + Crow

The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI) was designed to provide a forum for debating public policies and decision-making in the Arab World, particularly issues such as the refugee crisis and climate change.

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Hufton + Crow

The 3,000-square-metre building is located on the northern side of the university campus, which was masterplanned by American firm Sasaki Associates in 2002. To retain the established pathways and landscaping of this masterplan, Zaha Hadid Architects lifted half the building off the ground.

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Hufton + Crow

This creates a public plaza at the entrance, described by the studio as "a forum for the exchange of ideas". Surrounded by century-old ficus and cypress trees, the double-height space forms a natural meeting point.

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Luke Hayes

"The building emerges from the geometries of intersecting routes as a series of interlocking platforms and spaces for research, engagement and discourse," said Zaha Hadid Architects.

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Hufton + Crow

Like the other buildings on campus, the IFI building is constructed from concrete. Each wall is indented with curving four-sided shapes, many of which function as windows.

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Hufton + Crow

"The building takes full advantage of the region's tradition and expertise of working with in-situ concrete," said the team.

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Luke Hayes

A seven-metre change of level across the site creates entrances on three separate floors.

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Hufton + Crow

A 100-seat auditorium occupies the sunken lower level of the building and has its own entrance, allowing large events and conferences to take place without disrupting day-to-day activities.

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Luke Hayes

Other spaces include a reading room, workshops and research areas. These are positioned within the cantilever and feature ink-pigmented glass partitions to allow views between rooms.

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Hufton + Crow

A large skylight helps to bring controlled levels of daylight through the interior, while a screened terrace offers a break-out space for staff and students on the roof.

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Luke Hayes

The IFI building is the latest in a series of projects by Zaha Hadid to complete in the last 12 months. The firm also recently unveiled a 38,000-square-metre cultural complex in South Korea, the Heydar Aliyev Centre in Azerbaijan and the Jockey Club Innovation Tower in Hong Kong.

See more architecture by Zaha Hadid »

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Hufton + Crow

Here's the project description from Zaha Hadid Architects:


Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut

The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI) building by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) continues the on-going implementation of the 2002 AUB Campus Master Plan by Sasaki Associates (in collaboration with Machado and Silvetti, MGT of America, and Dar Al-Handasa, Shair and Partners) to advance the university's academic mission in the 21st Century with facilities of the highest international standards.

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Hufton + Crow

The IFI was established as a neutral, dynamic, civil, and open space where people representing all viewpoints in society can gather and discuss significant issues, anchored in a long-standing commitment to mutual understanding and high quality research. The institute aims to harness, develop and initiate research of the Arab world to enhance and broaden debate on public policy and international relations. It currently works on several programs addressing the region's issues including the refugee crisis, climate change, food security, and water scarcity, youth, social justice and development, urbanism, and the UN in the Arab world.

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Luke Hayes

Relocating the infirmary closer to the new university hospital presented AUB with the opportunity to build the institute on the constrained site with a seven metre drop in elevation between its south and north boundaries. The existing AUB campus combines buildings constructed in concrete throughout the 20th century in a variety of revivalist and modernist styles with different cladding and rendering treatments.

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Hufton + Crow

In 2006, the competition jury selected ZHA's proposal to build the new institute. The design significantly reduces the building's footprint by 'floating' much of the IFI'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.

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Hufton + Crow

The 3,000-square-metre Issam Fares Institute building is defined by the many routes and connections within AUB; 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.

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Hufton + Crow

The IFI 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.

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Hufton + Crow

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.

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Hufton + Crow

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.

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Hufton + Crow

The IFI'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.

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Photograph by Hufton + Crow

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.

Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Site plan - click for larger image

The IFI's design builds upon the institute's mission as a catalyst and connector between AUB, 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.

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Basement plan - click for larger image
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Ground floor plan - click for larger image
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First floor plan - click for larger image
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Second floor plan - click for larger image
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Third floor plan - click for larger image
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Fourth floor plan - click for larger image
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Roof plan - click for larger image
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Cross section - click for larger image
Issam-Fares-Institute-by-Zaha-Hadid
Cross section through atria - click for larger image
  • vikarch

    Congratulations Beirut!

  • inteloid

    This building sucks, literally just sucks. It’s not beautiful and never I’ll agree that rhombus shaped or forward leaning windows are beautiful enough to compensate for their impracticality.

    • Colonel Pancake

      Literally sucks, except not literally at all. Literally.

  • ipm

    Stunning.

  • John Lee

    Zaha busts another blood vessel making something wilfully wiggly that should be straight.

    • You’re Wrong

      Are you looking at the same building?
      Definition – Wiggly: Curved or curving in and out, ‘wiggly lines.’ This is a rare example of a Zaha building with only straight lines!

  • Rashad

    Does anyone know if Zaha Hadid also writes in italic type?

  • Z-dog

    Spot on comment. The concrete finish is absolute perfection – very few architects could get this correct on a residential project!

    Sometimes ZHA buildings looks a little forced but, when the details are as perfect as this, everything is elevated to another level.

  • Live and let live

    This is a very nice building by ZHA. Its very entertaining to read comments on all of Zaha’s designs. If the design is very curved then people say it’s too curved and needs to be more defined. If it’s a more geometrically defined shape, then it’s also not good! They say it’s too inclined. If it’s a simple box then it’s too simple… Just a box.

    If it’s concrete then it’s too solid, if it’s cladding then it’s fake. The truth is none of you commenting has managed to execute a similar piece of architecture to the scale and complexity done at ZHA, and don’t have any idea of what effort it takes to do so, and probably never will.

    Stick to your little traditional box shapes ‘if any’ and restrain from hate commenting on other people trying to make a difference in the world with their work. Sometimes successful, sometimes not so much, the world moves on getting things done rather than just talking.

  • LeighLeigh

    Outside good. Inside meh.

  • Concerned Citizen

    It has taken years, but I think she may have done this one right. It will be interesting to see if the improvement continues.

  • geezr

    I think the “how does it look” discussion is secondary when it comes to projects from Zaha Hadid. The clients signed off on it, and whether we want it or not, like it or not, the clients are the ones that have to like it.

    What I find disturbing though, is the complete disregard of the surroundings and very often of the people using these buildings.

    However you might “sell” the project as a work of art or whatever, it should at least be two things: people friendly and a sustainable (building life of 20+ years). Unfortunately most of Zaha’s buildings are neither.

    Knowing a couple of people that have worked there over the years, I know that many building shapes are designed as “blobs” in 3D Max. Knowing this, it is obvious why some of the buildings look kind of cool but lack substance from a – z.

  • Mikael

    No, it’s like saying “I hate football but I’ve never played it” which is a valid statement.