Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy, Lebanon (awarded 2014–2016)
The American University of Beirut (AUB) was founded in 1866 (Ramku, 2016). The university, based on the American liberal arts model of higher education, is located on the Beirut Corniche. The upper campus, set on a hilltop, has views of the Mediterranean. The first building to be built on the Ras Beirut campus was the College Hall, the construction of which commenced on 7 December 1871. Currently, the campus includes sixty-four buildings made up of dormitories, faculty buildings, libraries, museums, and sports facilities. In the immediate vicinity of the project are four historic buildings and some venerable 150-year-old cypress and fiscus trees, as well as one of the most important open areas on the campus, the Green Oval (Mostafavi, 2016a).
In 2002, Sasaki Associates and Partners, an international planning and design firm, designed a master plan for revitalising the American University campus. Two years later, in 2004, the AUB decided to establish the Issam Fares Institute (IFI) for Public Policy and International Affairs, a research centre for public policy and international affairs. This is an independent, research-based, policy-oriented institute that aims to strengthen and advance related policy research in the Arab region (Ramku, 2016). The context in this case is the AUB’s upper campus. The university wanted an architecture that would embody its ambitions in the 21st century and accommodate the specific functions and needs of a modern-day research collective. This collaborative space was to be in a purpose-built structure that would be in harmony with the rest of the university; it would be a place designed to facilitate intense dialogue to motivate scholars, journalists, diplomats, and policy makers to teach, research, and collaborate (Ramku, 2016). The AUB greatly valued its locale, natural environment, and landscape, with some of the trees on the site being more than 150 years old. Therefore, one of their prerequisites was to preserve as much of the green surroundings as possible. In addition, safeguarding the view to the Mediterranean Sea from the Green Oval and the surrounding buildings was a crucial design requirement. In keeping with the general objectives of the institute, the architecture programme needed to include research and administration offices, seminar and workshops rooms, a conference room/auditorium, a reading room, a recreational lounge, and a roof terrace (Ramku, 2016).
Due to the specific campus context and the need to retain the established landscaping of the 2002 masterplan by Sasaki Associates in collaboration with Machado and Silvetti, MGT of America, Dar Al-Handasa, and Shair and Partners, Zaha Hadid Architects was commissioned to fulfil the conditions of the architectural programme (Arch-Daily, 2014). In compliance, Zaha Hadid Architects lifted half the building off the ground, which significantly reduced the building’s footprint by cantilevering a large part of the structure over the entrance courtyard (Figure 5.9). This cantilever also
Figure 5.9 Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy, Beirut, Lebanon, by Zaha Hadid Architects
Source: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture/Cemal Emden (photographer) created a public plaza at the entrance, which was intended for use as “a forum for the exchange of ideas” (Frearson, 2014). The existing landscape forms a datum line defining the institute’s height, as visible from the south facade. A roof terrace was made to enhance connections with the landscape. This connection with the landscape was further strengthened through the canopied circulation ramp that smoothly goes around the trees to connect the research lounges on the second floor directly with the campus. The first-floor seminar room and offices are accessed at grade from the east and the public courtyard to the west. These routes meet within the IFI at the atrium hall that forms a central hub and meeting space for students, faculty, researchers, and visitors (Arch-Daily, 2014).
The Issam Fares Institute has a combined surface area of 3000 square metres and consists of six floors. The interiors are divided by walls of partially pigmented glass, although the original idea was for clear glazing for maximum transparency. The structure is of high-quality in-situ reinforced concrete, in tune with the local construction culture of working with concrete, particularly fair-faced concrete.
The Royal Academy for Nature Conservation, Jordan (shortlisted 2014–2016)
The main purpose of the Royal Academy for Nature Conservation, established in 1966 by a small group of game hunters, was to preserve both native animal species, whose numbers were in decline due to illegal hunting and poaching (Karaku§, 2016), and the natural environment in Jordan. The Academy belongs to Jordan’s oldest nature conservation organisation, the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) (Karaku§, 2016). The conservation policies and strategies of the RSCN over the past 50 years underpin the principles of the Academy. The Academy was founded for educational and practical hands-on training purposes in an attempt to inculcate awareness on environmental conservation and preservation. The types of nature preservation and ecotourism educational programmes include but are not limited to training ecological, nature, and adventure guides, teaching survival skills and search-and-rescue skills, ranger training, environmental policing and inspection, and nature conservation in addition to wildlife identification, as well as studies in geology and landscape. The Academy also specialises in forest-tourism package development and outdoor catering, including menu creation and local community development. The original plan to integrate the building with the Ajloun Forest Reserve was discarded for environmental reasons, as it would require the felling of virgin timber and human encroachment. A nearby site, outside of the forest reserve, was therefore chosen for the construction of the Academy.
The Royal Academy is located on a hilltop, above an abandoned limestone quarry, just outside the Ajloun Forest Reserve and Umm Al-Yanabi village, in a rolling landscape of farmland and oak forests (Mostafavi, 2016b). The local limestone is a common building material in Jordan’s traditional architecture. The structure overhangs the quarry with a dramatic protruding cantilever as a succession of angular volumes (Figure 5.10). On
Figure 5.10 The Royal Academy for Nature Conservation, Ajlun, Jordan, Kham- mash Architects
Source: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture/Cemal Emden (photographer) the northwest side of the quarry, the Academy building continues the coarse stony surface up into its main facade. The distinction between the quarry face and the limestone facade of the Academy is not visible from a distance, appearing as one volume. Access to the Academy is via a 30-metre-long bridge made of stone and reinforced concrete (Mostafavi, 2016b).
The irregular design of the limestone-cladded faqade was inspired by the contours of the quarry; it literally seems as if the architect sketched a guiding line on the vertical surface of the rock to the stonemasons at the beginning of the work (Mostafavi, 2016b). The building upsurges from this line and flawlessly moves from bedrock to masonry construction, appearing as a mass of rough-textured local limestone. The solar gain in the southern faqade is moderated by different strategies: small windows, elongated concrete louvres, and a vertical blade-like blow cropping into zero width. Most importantly, to lessen the impact of the construction on the surrounding environment, diamond-shaped exposed reinforced concrete columns are angled 45 degrees over the trees, generating cavities underneath the terraces. The interior of the building, arranged around a central entrance lobby, is divided in two main areas: educational and catering services, which are mainly the restaurant and the kitchen. The chief movement corridor is infilled with pointed stone blocks - smaller versions of the tapered concrete louvres inserted into the exterior windows. A play of light is created when the skylight enters through the corridor over these blades of stone, conjuring the coarse textures of the quarry.