The Beirut Museum of Art Design Competition Jury, chaired by Lord Peter Palumbo, met in Beirut between Wednesday 28th September and Friday 30th September, 2016 to assess the twelve submissions for Stage Two.
The jury agreed by a solid majority to select as the competition winner the team of HW architecture (Paris), led by acclaimed architect Hala Wardé, and awarded a special mention to WORK Architecture Company (New York), led by Columbia University Dean of Architecture, Amale Andraos. Consideration was given to all submissions for their impact on the city and what each offered to residents and visitors, including analysis from a master planning, technical and operational viewpoint. All submissions remained anonymous throughout the review period.
The design by HW architecture weaves together remarkable landscape, urban, and architectural strategies. At its base, a sunken garden provides refuge from neighboring noise and traffic. From an aerial perspective, it becomes clear that a major new park now extends the city's existing green space, which stretches from the Hippodrome and Horsh Beirut beyond. The setting invites museumgoers, university students, and the public at large to mingle in a park-like setting that features high panoramic vistas of the cityscape and low, secluded moments dedicated to performances and site-specific artworks. Directly adjacent to the Université Saint Joseph campus, the project emphasizes connections with the acclaimed Campus de L'Innovation et du Sport designed by Youssef Tohme and 109 Architects, while offering its own roof as accessible public space.
Architecturally, the building ramps up at the rhythm of a meandering promenade that leads to the base of a slender and programmable tower. In counterbalance to the well of the garden amphitheater - in essence a landscaped architecture of absence - this totemic tower acts as a beacon, evocative of the historical structures of treasury, lighthouse, outlook tower, belvedere and campanile.
The jury appreciated the project's respectful treatment of the site and the surrounding context, and also valued the way it creates a succession of varied landscapes and spaces where art and society can come together. The connections between garden, amphitheater, exhibition spaces and roof garden have been well considered and offer a continuous visitor experience that lends itself to both exhibiting art and engaging the community.
In making this selection, the jury also recognized that further study would be required of the urban relationships between the BeMA: Beirut Museum of Art's new structure and the adjacent National Museum, as well as possible programs for the tower - a normal part of the design development process of such a significant structure.
The jury likewise noted the high standard of submissions throughout the process. The participants in the design competition were thanked in absentia for their thoughtful and creative submissions, with each scheme having contributed to further understanding the potential of the site and the museum.
HW architecture is an architectural practice created in 2008 by Hala Wardé. HW architecture's multi-disciplinary team of creative individuals has gained expertise in designing and delivering large scale projects like museums and mixed-use centers, as well as small scale projects like art galleries and private houses. The studio has in-house architects, graphists, designers and model makers supplemented by an external network of specialized consultants including scenographists, museologists, lighting specialists, signage and graphic design specialists, architectural historians, landscape and public realm designers.
Hala Wardé has collaborated for over 26 years with Jean Nouvel. Projects developed by HW architecture in association with Ateliers Jean Nouvel are regulated by a privileged partnership. In the framework of this partnership, Hala Wardé was recently in charge of the One New Change office and retail center in London, which was delivered in 2010 and the Landmark project, a mixed-use complex in the city center of Beirut. Hala Wardé is currently leading the Louvre Abu Dhabi project, which she has been overseeing since 2006.