L.E.FT ARCHITECTS, New York
Narrative on Urban Design and Architecture Urban Approach Within a congested city that suffers from lack of water resources and open green spaces, a garden courtyard with water harvesting capacity, is posited as an onset - a subtraction and erasure from the 6000 m2 urban block, rather than an addition. The garden is porous and elevated to create a maximum of continuity with the city beyond at the ground level.
In a city that has only two major parks, a simple 2,500 m2 garden courtyard of public nature becomes radical.
BeMA: Beirut Museum of Art, a cultural agent in the city, would assume an educational role.
Below the elevated ground, covered terraces are open for appropriation by local and street artists, pop-up retail/market pavilions and impromptu gatherings and concerts, an empty canvas for the city.
Above, a new skyline, formed by BeMA: Beirut Museum of Art’s temporary exhibition spaces tower with the four office towers, hovers above the city creating through roof decks new vantage points. A new hybrid urbanity of horizontals and verticals, form the new silhouette of the city.
SITING A GROUNDLESS MUSEUM
The ground of the museum is politically charged. A demarcation line for a divided city, it witnessed the atrocities of a civil war that stopped but never actually ended. To build on Carl von Clausewitz, architecture in this sense is a continuation of war by other means.
The museum lifts itself above that ground (and politics) to create a new history but also to create a new covered public space for random acts of spatial appropriation and violence to occur. a new articulated ground floor, with both hardscape and landscape areas, creates the only public space along a street (Damascus road) that should have been public (leading to the only national museum) but is rather filled with introverted campuses, embassies, governmental institutions and cultural centers - public in nature but private in practice.
The museum ground becomes the actualization and the pinnacle of a potentially public street that is planned to turn into a pedestrian street. It is articulated as an excavated plane, a crater, with glass skylights overlooking and bringing light to the collection storage floor in the basement below. The lobby of the museum itself is a crater excavation in that ground, effectively marking transition from the city ground and its history into a new ground.
Within the museum, an indoor/outdoor/indoor enfilade re-enacts urban-warfare maneuvering that happened during the civil war, as a new appropriation of the urban landscape scaled to the architectural scale. Between galleries, stairs criss-cross, subtract, invade and explode into the art world creating a parallel universe of visual relationships vertically, horizontally and diagonally.
BEMA: BEIRUT MUSEUM OF ART’S MISSION
Curatorially, the museum references the history of the site by incorporating art works that reference the history of the site, in a representation of a representation.
The museum is not about the war, it is about artists who talk and don’t talk about the war.
The museum is not about the green line, the green line was waiting for its museum.
Photo Credits to L.E.FT ARCHITECTS, New York