A largely cantilevered fair-faced concrete building, with rhombus-shaped windows, designed by star-architect Zaha Hadid, constructed by Kettaneh Construction & Contracting, and managed by the Facilities Planning & Design Unit, was recently inaugurated at the American University of Beirut. As much as this being significant and prestigious to AUB, it is equally significant for Lebanon: the premises of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs are marked as the first Zaha Hadid building to be completed in the country.
This building features a series of interlocking platforms and spaces which culminate in a striking angular geometry. A double-height courtyard lies at the heart of it and provides an open sky-lit space around which are floating the building's conference workshops, reading room and research areas. The internal partitions, made of ink-pigmented glass panels, encourage and facilitate communication and interaction throughout the Institute. The nearby 150-years-old Ficus and Cypress trees were integral to the design of the building form and to its setting out within its surrounding. They frame, with the building cantilever, a generous and appealing outdoor area where staff and students can relax, interact, congregate and appreciate the beauty of the campus through very well studied ramped connections and visual corridors.
The lowest level of the structure holds the 92-seat fully equipped auditorium, while the overall building celebrates passive sustainable design measures and highly efficient active systems and technologies using recycling to minimize the building's impact on the environment.