Beirut is perpetually redefining itself. Mediterranean and Arab, cosmopolitan and nationalist, secular and religious, liberal and conservative, political and hedonistic, superficial and genuine. It is a city in search of its identity, at the crossroads of cultures from the Arabian Peninsula to the Caucasian plateaus and across the Mediterranean Sea.
Elie Haddad – Dean of Architecture, LAU

The Brief

The proposed site is located in the heart of Beirut, at what was once a major crossing point along the old Civil War demarcation line where two major arteries connect diverse communities. The plot (Ashrafieh #4781) is owned by the Université Saint Joseph. A long-term lease agreement has been signed with the USJ for the development of the museum on a portion of the plot, with future educational and residential facilities for the USJ campus to be developed on the remainder.

The site covers a total of 12,603 square meters, 2,780 of which will be dedicated to the museum and the project involves master planning the entire site, including the USJ extension. Apart from designing the museum, this includes new campus facilities for the university, a business center, shared landscaped common areas and underground parking.

The winning design must display architectural integrity and presence, and respond to the site’s strategic location at the confluence of diverse communities. It should maximize external spaces, to create synergy between the university and museum programs, as well as create a welcoming retreat from the surrounding cityscape.

The museum building will amount to between 10,000 and 12,000 square meters b.u.a., in addition to shared underground parking and outdoor spaces. It is envisioned that the museum program will include flexible exhibition and performance spaces in addition to extensive community and educational spaces, conservation and storage facilities, digital and archive centers and public amenities. Given its close proximity to USJ facilities, commercial components like the food and beverage and retail areas will be accessible to non-Museum visitors.

The overall master plan and the design of the museum must respond to the pedestrian corridor developing adjacent to the site and incorporate innovative responses in terms of energy use, accessibility and the preservation of natural resources. The Museum will operate as a stand-alone facility, with administration, operations, security and management present on-site.

The museum will be a dynamic contemporary place, true to its social and cultural responsibilities. It will acknowledge the historic significance of the site and its adjoining institutions and be a place of connection where once the city was divided.

The budget will reflect international norms of exhibition, storage and conservation, as well as the stature of the project.