Beirut Roman Baths

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Solidere is regenerating the Beirut Central District with a Master Plan designed to heal the deconstruction of the war, preserve cultural heritage, and reinvigorate the city center by emphasizing public space and street life. As part of this effort, excavations of Beirut's rich archaeological heritage are being integrated within the fabric and open spaces of the modern city. The Roman Baths site, comprised of archaeology exposed in between two gardens, with a central "grand stair" that is currently one of Beirut's main performance venues, embodies this integration of history with the present. Developed as part of an invited international design competition for Solidere, the Beirut Roman Baths proposal seeks to upgrade this historical site, located in the heart of downtown Beirut. The existing Roman Baths is a significant and yet chronically underused site. Machado and Silvetti Associates was first tasked with analyzing the site in the context of its history, location, and surrounding area. Then with developing a flexible concept master plan to address the valuable archaeology, while drawing visitors into the space, encouraging public activity and accommodating large gatherings and outdoor events. Our proposal seeks to redress the current situation by envisioning the Roman Baths site an important destination in its own right, as well as a major event along a route from the L'Etoile Clocktower to the belvedere adjacent to the Grand Serail. We believe that this east-west route will, in time, be reestablished as perhaps the most important public promenade in central Beirut. Our proposed scheme makes propositions for both materials and programming, alongside a more substantive reassessment of the site and is built on a few key recommendations.

First, removing the "grand stair" that links the lower and upper sites, and replacing it with a pedestrian bridge. The existing stair is an overly massive element that does not function elegantly as a performance space or as a movement route in the east-west direction. The stair divides the Roman Baths excavation into two parts, preventing comprehension of the full site. Our pedestrian bridge would serve as an excellent vantage point for viewing the ruins below, and would become an important destination in itself. Secondly, to create a new North Garden that can function informally as a public park, and as a major performance space for up to 1500 people. In our proposal, the audience's view is focused towards the ruins themselves, giving the archaeology a new existence as the primary backdrop for performance in the center of the city. Next, to create a new South Garden that provides a frontal vista over the unified ruins, as well as an informal terraced garden and an intimate, small theater. Finally, the re-introduction of water to the site, specifically as an element that links the other major site elements, and as a reminder of the site's historic function.

Year: 2009
Solidere, Lebanese Development Corportation
Beirut, Lebanon

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