Project designs show new direction for Lebanese architecture
Beirut is not a city short on high rise buildings. Its 85 km2 of land is peppered with predominantly concrete towers of various heights accommodating the 1.25 million residents and their businesses in the Lebanese capital. Vertical development has not been held back by its years of war, but yet there are too few modern architectural landmarks to suggest a progressive architectural arena, and despite the city's 5000 year history, it is not a World Heritage Site either. LAN Architecture's concept seeks to address Beirut's status as an architectural landmark by creating a modern day integration visible on the horizon from all of Beirut.
486 MINA EL HOSN, dubbed by the architect as both 'The tower that looks at Beirut' and 'The mirror tower', has been designed to offer the city 'a new vision of itself', literally and figuratively. The highly reflective facade will turn the tower into a mirror of the city, thus integrating it within its surroundings and achieving a new viewpoint at once.
Composed of three main elements: the tower, the base and the five blocks, 486 MINA EL HOSN is a substantial development for the infamously war-torn city and will stand directly opposite the shell-riddled Murr Tower, that has come
to symbolise the civil war.
The architects are aware of the symbolism incorporated in their design. Gus Lago of LAN Architecture explained: "The risk lay in constructing a new monument, a new prisoner of the city’s oppressive memory. True, the tower recreates the diverse histories and cultures that have made and are still making the city, but the building is a living, animated, changing entity.
"Its envelope will be an integral part of the city’s physical reality, giving it back a body, reflecting its myriad facts. In doing so, it will open up an invisible inner space, strike chords within us, almost effacing itself to become an active agent in Beirut’s reconciliation with itself."
The reflective quality is not generated by a glazed facade but rather by an exterior skin comprising sliding perforated sheet stainless steel panels with a mirror finish that provide the dual function of aesthetics and controlled shading. The structure has also remarkably been specifically engineered to reproduce views across the tower's 142 m height and 25 m width through the precise orientation of over 30,000 facets of identical size, so that
these reflections should be visible from precise areas of the city. This was made possible using 3D software tools.
Five 35,000 sq m residential blocks will join the tower, designed for client BankMed. The first six floors of the tower from entrance level will provide a home for the bank before a service level above creates a plinth for twenty duplex and triplex apartments to rise. The tower's three-level base will form the hub of activity where a new public realm is formed. 10,000 sq m of commercial units, a roof garden, and pedestrian alleys will open up a circulation area for the inhabitants of Beirut to take advantage of the scheme from ground level.
Niki May Young