Winning Entry


Design Concept

In such a place of unspeakably rich history, the Beirut Museum of Art must be at once an artistic/cultural territory and a social space. It is not an isolated island but rather one link in an archipelago that runs through the heart of the city, in particular along the Damascus Road and its crossings of various demarcation lines, marked by important cultural institutions, the National Museum, MIM Mineral Museum, Beit Beirut and further down the port and the Beirut City Museum.
All cities usually form around water. And the settling of a territory is marked by the act of breaking ground. Since the city of Beirut and the museum site contains groundwater, through the first act of digging, we will surely discover this primordial element, that ultimately gives rise to and nourishes the entire project. A Well (Al-Bir, the etymological origin of the name Beirut), will anchor the Museum's foundations to the plot.

With water we start by creating a lush haven around the well. This Garden, composed of a succession of varied landscapes, expands over several levels and embeds itself in the continuity of the green line created by the surrounding neighborhood and university campus.

The Museum will be marked by an urban and territorial sign that contrasts with the subterranean well and garden, a sign that is highly visible and vertical: the Campanile. As both art and architecture, the Campanile is the strong gesture by the site, its fulcrum and call to the outside. It is a cardinal point and topological center of culture and identity for a country that inspires varied convergences. The verticality of the Campanile makes it an immediate landmark in the heart of the city. As a highly visible urban indicator, it is an orienting lodestar for the lost wanderer. It is in some ways the ‘other’ lighthouse of Beirut, a terrestrial beacon, a nod and compliment to its coastal counterpart.
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Jury Statement

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

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.
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  • Architect Statement

    Hala Warde

    Hala Warde

    Studio Founder
    Architect HW architecture
    I am delighted and honored to realize my first major project in the city of Beirut where I was born, on such an exceptional site. This museum program, in connection with the university, will allow us to create a new cultural and social space with a garden and amphitheater, and will single out this artistic territory with a strong and recognizable urban beacon, which through its multiple expressions, will belong to the new urban landscape of the city. It is a moving coincidence to receive this news as the architectural world is gathered in London to honor Zaha Hadid, an inspiration to women and architects worldwide, who was originally a member of this competition's jury. I am thinking of her today with great affection.

    MDP Michel Desvigne Paysagiste

    MDP Michel Desvigne Paysagiste

    Michel Desvigne is a landscape architect internationally renowned for his rigorous and contemporary designs and for the originality and relevance of his research work.
    He has developed projects in more than twenty-five countries, where his work helps in highlighting the landscape and rendering them visible, in understanding the mechanisms at work giving them form, and in acting upon these mechanisms in order to transform the landscapes and imbue them with meaning.

    In 2011, Desvignes received France's Grand Prize for Urbanism for his continual contribution to and reflection upon the city and larger territory. In 2014, he was awarded the European Prize for Urban Public Space for his restoration project of the Old-Port of Marseille.

    Michel Desvigne works with leading architects including Jean Nouvel, Norman Foster, Herzog and de Meuron, O.M.A (Rem Koolhaas), Christian de Portzamparc, I.M. Pei, Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers.

    Amongst MDP's most renowned projects are the Keio University (Tokyo, Japan), the Otemachi Urban Forest (Tokyo, Japan), the Rue de Meaux Garden (Paris, France), the Ministry of Culture (Paris, France), Monaco's extension Anse du Portier, and several modern art museum gardens, the Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi, Parc Dräi Eechelen (Luxemburg) and the Sammons Park (Dallas), the Saint Louis Art Museum (USA).

    Recently Desvigne has been awarded the leading role in the planning and implementation of the Paris-Saclay cluster (7700 ha), the landscape and urban plan for the development of Euralens (1200 ha), as well as the redevelopment of the old port of Marseille.