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Yabani (R2)

Beirut, Lebanon
Built 2002

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The Yabani project was built to house a Japanese restaurant and bar on a 285-square-meter site located at the edge of the Damascus road on the former demarcation line that separated East and West Beirut. The traces of shelling of the recent wars are highly visible on many of the adjacent buildings in which refugees are still squatting.

The Yabani building incorporates a two-storey concrete structure below ground level and a 14-meter-high steel tower above ground. The tower contains a mobile reception room that travels vertically within a circular glass perimeter from the street level to the restaurant level below ground. The guests' seating is laid out in a circular configuration around the mobile transparent reception that animates the center of the plan. The vertical circulation of the guests' arrival and departure is intentionally over-exposed as the reception lounge becomes the focal point around which the seating plan is generated.

The restaurant interior is exposed to the sky through generous "walk-on" glass windows located at ground level. The patrons can therefore enjoy their dining experience in total denial of their immediate urban surroundings. On the other hand, the Yabani project assumes its absurd presence and its impossible relationship with its urban environment through the exposure of the highly visible tower and the relationships it establishes with its immediate surrounding.

Yabani is the product of a scenario that attempts to describe a fraction of a society living in marvelous denial. Leftovers of war and spectacles of desolation become a backdrop to the more impressive spectacle of a society being entertained. Yabani strives to be a monument for the entertainment industry, a building that claims a landmark status it cannot possibly assume.