Italian architect Alberto Catalano has won an international competition to design a new Center of Art and Culture for Beirut, Lebanon. Catalano was selected from a field of 753 entries from 63 countries.
The competition brief called for a building that was conceived not as a museum but rather to host temporary national, regional and international exhibitions. All designs were to include a large auditorium, a small performance hall, a cinema, exhibition spaces, rehearsal and production studios, a multi-medial library and office space.
Catalano's winning scheme has an openness and versatility that impressed the competition's jurors. According to his architectural plan, the Center will have a low-rise and decidedly post modern exterior, composed of conjoining angles and levels, a sidelong tower ( much lower than surrounding buildings) designed for workshops and offices, and significant subterranean space for, among other things, a grand auditorium.
Suha Ozkan, a Turkish architect and president of the competition’s jury called Catalano’s design “an urban proposal that converses with the city”. The Cultural Ministry and Gaia-Heritage described his design as modestly urban and human in scale, one vested with “Arabesque” and Mediterranean spirits and a modern functionality that contributes to the emerging new identity.
Funded by a $20 million gift from the Sultanate of Oman, the House of Arts and Culture will the first of its kind in Beirut. The expected completion date is early 2013.