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Metropolis Beirut

Beirut, Lebanon
Mixed Use Development
In Progress 2014

Metropolis is a mixed-use development situated at the northern­ periphery of Beirut, bordered by the intersection of the major east-west and north-south road networks of the city on its western and southern orientations, and by relatively smaller residential neighborhoods on its remaining orientations. Despite being located at the center of relatively dense infrastructure ranging from tunnels to bridges and overpasses, the plot lies within an institutional context, surrounded by buildings such as the V.A.T. building, the American University of Science and Technology, the Lawyers Syndicate and the Hotel-Dieu de France medical center.

With a total surface area of 11,084 square meters, the site of intervention is part of an urban island comprised of eight plots, four of which are owned by the client and will house the main intervention with a total allowable built-up area of 33,785 square meters, three of which will be intervened on partially as agreed upon by their owners, with the last plot already housing an existing complex.

The proposed scheme was primarily driven by the particularity of the site which is located on a relatively steep topography with a 10-meter drop from the upper streets bordering its northern and eastern orientations, to the lowest point on the site. In an attempt to open up to and maintain a maximum permeability with the surrounding entourage, a decision was taken to reconcile with the upper streets by generating a geometric three-dimensional abstraction of a topography, ultimately forming a landscape of varying oblique planes connecting the various internal points of the site to the differing levels of the surrounding roads.

In addition to its use as a public surface on which scattered spontaneous public activities are to take place, this geometric landscape was carefully configured above ground in order to house various programmatic functions within it. These include three movie theaters of 150, 250 and 350 seats being relocated from a previous location, the client's production house offices, as well as production facilities and offices for local audio-visual studios. The triangular formation of the mounds blurs the lines between these spaces' floors, walls and ceilings, all equally treated and pierced with triangular openings which in some instances become hybrids between windows and skylights.

Atop the topography lies a 115-meter long by 6.4-meter wide one-storey bridge housing administrative offices for the cinema, escalator access to the movie theaters below, a lobby housing the theaters' concession stands and doubling as an expansive space for the hosting of exhibitions, red-carpet events and grand openings, as well as a bookshop, cafe, bar and restaurant. This 'needle' is accessed through a ramp at its tip, where cars can drop off visitors and park at the peripheries of the terrain whose triangulated slopes were conceived at the adequate inclination for vehicular access and parking.

Finally, beyond its symbolic significance depicting on-going and perpetual evolution and development, a crane is placed at the center of the plan serving various recreational, promotional and dynamic purposes. Among other uses, it can be used to hoist a screen for the projection of outdoor films in front of a 150-seat audience accommodated on one of the triangulated surfaces. The crane functions as a tool to further fuel the site by injecting it with various additional catalytic programs. The result is a continually dynamic scheme conceived with minimal built-up area while simultaneously taking advantage of the plot's vast surface.