Isolated within the interior of an irregularly shaped residential block in Ashrafieh, Beirut, the Abdel Wahab project site's seemingly difficult physical constraints, also lend to its potential assets. The site is surrounded by the backs of several disparate and aging buildings on its east and west sides, and is relieved by street frontage on its north and south sides. It is essential, then, to create a strong and unique identity for the Abdel Wahab site itself, one that establishes its own internal landscape and respite from the haphazard conglomeration of buildings and vacant lots the surrounds it.
Our proposal focuses on the creation of a central landscape that stretches from Abdel Wahab Street on the south to Forn el Hayek Street on the north side. This landscape is defined at its edges by blocks of three-story townhouses that run continuously on both its east and west sides, masking views to the surrounding neighborhood. A twenty-six story tower then sits atop the townhouse masses, spanning between them, and creating a large covered terrace to protect its entry lobbies. This "bridge" also divides the central landscape into three distinct exterior spaces. On the south side, a hardscaped entry court provides a dramatic "front door" for the project, accommodating a formal drop-off point from Abdel Wahab Street. On the north side, a lush, picturesque garden is created as an amenity to the residents themselves, which is elevated two-stories above Forn el Hayek Street to offer additional privacy as well as conceal resident and visitor parking below.
The form of the building is derived in response to both its unique context and to a desire to capture exceptional views. The surrounding neighborhood is largely characterized by haphazard, irregular building forms and residual open spaces. Rather than forcefully imposing a regular form within our site, our proposal chooses to embrace its quirky context. This approach allows for the optimum use of the site and lends itself to a variety of building configurations and unit types that, in turn, offer individual identity and a sense of ownership.
Whereas the tower's angular shape conforms to the allowable zoning envelope (with some liberties taken at upper levels to optimize views), the north face is stretched to allow for maximum exposure to views of the city below and to the sea beyond. The townhouses, which do not reach a height to afford such views, look inward toward the central landscape, creating a "street front" of their own. Each townhouse is then organized around private courtyards and decks hidden by high garden walls, and their irregular form easily absorbs the erratic site boundary on the east and west sides to maximize full use of the site.
The building massing is further articulated by distinct horizontal "zones," stacked vertically, which conform to the scale of the surrounding neighborhood while simultaneously establishing an individual identity for the project. This include the carved "blocks" of townhouses below, characterized by its use of thick stone walls, the "bridge" that spans between the townhouse blocks to support the tower above, and the simple, independent volume of the "penthouses" at the top, which adds a memorable (and identifiable) accent to the Beirut skyline. Each zone is then further articulated by different facade strategies, depending on its position and orientation, including the stone base of the townhouses, the operable metal louver and glass skin of the tower and bridge, and the exposed glass of the "penthouses," which takes full advantage of the surrounding views. This tri-partite division creates further variety within unit types, adding to the potential marketability of the project.