Gemmayzeh

Program: A new branch for Beirut Homes, a local hotelier that specializes in boutique hotels with both short term and long term occupancies
Area: 5.400 sqm
Project Status: Permit Application
Client: Beam Developers
Keywords: Hospitality, Parametric, Sustainable

Design Architects: Benjamin Fortunato, Karim Fakhry
Design Team: Vart Bisanz, Tony Khoury
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Solidere, the private urban planning company created by Rafic Hairi, successfully redeveloped an area of Downtown after it was ravaged by civil war, offering what seems like the perfect precedent for the positive effects of urban design.
In downtown Beirut, the existing urban fabric, though ravaged by war and neglect, had been the product of French master planning and Beirut's unique vernacular architecture style which was a conflation of European and Ottoman styles. Downtown was unified though mass, proportion, and style. Solidere maintained this historic character through a meticulous process of re-construction and through strict aesthetic guidelines for new construction. Though new construction projects often choose to leave behind the oriental ornamentation, they related to the reconstructed buildings through materiality, scale and proportion.
Solidere's success has influenced the planning goals of other regional planning commissions, but within the chaotic political landscape of Beirut, few areas have the ability to enforce its singular vision. Unlike development on Solidere's properties, jurisdiction over a project is held by a variety of regional commissions, resulting in conflicting agendas. While development in downtown was frozen in time during the war, and then redeveloped by Solidere's under Hairi's guidance, Gemmayzeh is the product of ad-hoc development over a period of time. Buildings vary from 3 to 16 stories in height, and are built is a variety of styles. Even the location of the street edge is in debate, this constant negotiation manifests itself through the constantly shifting width of the sidewalk.
Liberated from a fictitious historical context, and realizing that there was no effective way to reduce the height of the building, we decided to focus on creating a façade that would exhibit the qualities of lightness and porosity that would offset the buildings mass. Local building codes exempts a percentage of additional balcony space from the floor area ratio, giving the developer a valuable asset without diminishing the amount of interior space he can build. Instead of setting back the building and chamfering the corner, we created a single surface from the spline tangent to the site boundaries in plan and tangent to the setback in section. The space we gained by creating this highly efficient envelope allowed us to increase the amount of balcony space we could create without increasing the buildings height, creating an animated layer between our façade and the interior.
An analysis of incident solar radiation was performed, summer and winter. The resulting data was used to inform the density of the facade pattern.
A series of factor that would inform the density of the façade were evaluated separately. Views, solar optimization were evaluated, along with a series of pattern studies testing different percentages of planting on the balcony. The final facade is the result of the mediation between these different patterns, yielding a facade that is an index of its various performative operations.
Two different types of planters occupy the balcony, a shallow extensive planter which supports plants with shallow roots and a deeper intensive planter which supports plants with deeper roofs. The facade responds to these different planting through a change in density near the planter, to keep the slab and planter hidden from view.
In order to quickly explore the effect of various patterns on the building façade and the effect of the shape of the building envelope, a parametric model was developed. The video shows the various formal possibilities that can be quickly explored with the model.
The lobby plan.
A typical plan for floors 1-6. The location of the planters and the depth of the planter change , producing variation both in elevation and plan.
At floor 7 the facade begins to angle back. The planters are obscured in plan by the angled facade and handrail.
Floor 8.
The ninth floor houses a bar and restaurant, with views over the lively Rue Pasteur and Gouraud.
The use of a double skin facade dematerializes the building and reveals the activity of the building within, while still giving privacy to the hotel guests. The facades variation in densities produces a cinematic effect alternating between transparency and solidity as pedestrians walk around the building on the street below.
The effect of transparency is accentuated at night when light from the hotel rooms shines through the facade.
A nighttime view from across the street from a urban stairway connecting Rue Pasteur to the streets above.