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

| 26 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.

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

    Again I feel the need to commend the quality of construction on a Zaha project. It is not easy to achieve this kind of finish on concrete in England, let alone Lebanon.

  • Colonel Pancake

    She’s really doin’ it.

  • 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?

  • Ieva
  • 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.

    • tnyblr

      Your argument is a classic logical fallacy: “you have no right to comment because you have not achieved this” is readily used in defence against criticism of someones work.

      ‘Hate commenting’ is also a fallacious term for criticism. Everybody has a right to their opinion be it critical or positive. And no you do not have to be a successful professional architect to comment on architecture.

      • Jef

        Well, you know nothing about architecture then and it makes your comment even more ridiculous even though you have a right to express your opinion!
        It is like sating “i hate football but I’ve never watched it.”

  • Angry AUB Student

    As an AUB architecture student I would like to add that the building has many flaws in terms of outdoor circulation. Unlike what is stated here, it actually massacres the site by not allowing sunlight to penetrate the nearby Nicely building as well as having railings around the ‘public space’ under the cantilever, which makes it very difficult to access.

    The building cost is extremely high with respect to the amount of people it serves, which is estimated to be around 150 students and staff combined. The interior finishes seem very ad hoc since there are spaces which are completely glazed, with a certain sticker pattern on the glazing in order to create some privacy, which defeats the purpose and renders the glazing in a tacky manner if I must say.

    Zaha, I’m sorry to say this but if you actually visited the site before doing the skewed design you would know that this building is completely inappropriate to our campus!

  • LeighLeigh

    Outside good. Inside meh.

    • CojaPorCulo

      Fantastic architectural insight to one of the best architecture critics of our time. Ladies and gentleman, I present you “Leigh Leigh.”

  • adam

    Did not know Spittelau Viaducts and Wolfsburg Phaeno had a child.

  • https://soundcloud.com/inhead-kay/ Kay

    I just came back from Beirut and I paid my alma matter AUB several long visits to see this building up front. My initial impressions were those that seem to have been shared by nearly everyone I spoke to on campus, that the concrete facade and the geometrics of the building seem to heavily clash with the surroundings.

    An oval-shaped green space on the outside previously centred perfectly around four rectangular buildings noted for their distinct Beirut-inspired architecture.

    The building clearly pays no regard to this symmetry, neither in its facade nor in its floating aspects. However, if you do ignore this and look at the building from the other side, or across diagonally you really can’t but fall in love with it.

    It’s a shame that it just clashes so heavily with its surroundings and thus has been very negatively received on campus. It’s actually a really well finished and well designed building – but one that obviously doesn’t think it has to complement the adjacency.

  • cumma

    The issues with all such art in architecturally dense buildings is that they age very quickly and are not efficiently adaptable during its life-cycle. Now for a school, adaptability is very important as in change of use.

    In this case the building is baked, nothing much can be done to it, even internally. It is nothing but a fossilised concrete elephant which will stain as it sucks unsustainable maintenance bills from the university. The ROI will turn negative after a maximum of five years.

  • 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.

  • http://www.theidlearchitect.com/ The Idle Architect

    With Hadid I always find it difficult getting to the merits of the thing because the why so frequently gets in the way.

  • 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.

    • J

      The Louvre, Centre Pompidou, The Shard, Eiffel Tower, Tower Bridge, Guggenheim, Sagrada Famillia. Just a few examples of how your short-sighted interpretation of ‘disregard of the surroundings’ has led you to completely miss the point. The above examples show architecture that was vilified at the time for the same ignorant reasons, but now represent architectural icons (Shard excluded).

      There are times when not imitating surroundings is exactly the right method. In such an architecturally strong context it would be naive to expect this approach and Zaha was likely appointed for this very reason. Notice that the final proposal is actually more restrained than other buildings designed around the same time, maybe then you will see that respect has been paid and the final result is actually far more sympathetic to its surrounding than you give credit.

  • Mikael

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

  • Roarks Revenge

    Diagonal lines used sparingly can create interesting spaces between buildings – in plan and section. Zaha has certainly earned her place in the sun and deserves her success, but the diagonal lines for their own sake thing is getting really ridiculous.

    If she can’t handle the amount of commissions coming in to the office, then leave some for the rest of us. Don’t churn out mindless, repetitive clones of what were once original ideas. Excellent concrete work though. Don’t get me started on Gehry and his scribbly insta-buildings.