A mixed-use project in Beirut by Paralx reflects Lebanon’s mountainous terrain
Located in Beirut’s Achrafieh neighbourhood, near many governmental institutions, universities and a large hospital and medical centre, DL Project, named after its developer, sits at the edge of the Lebanese capital and overlooks the country’s mountainous terrain.
Inspired by the dips and peaks of Mount Lebanon, DL Project was designed by Paralx and is a mixed-use development that consists two separate buildings which house a residential unit oriented toward the south and an office unit, oriented toward the medical centre. Both are accessed via separate entrances.
“The city of Beirut is characterised by a wrapping coast on the Mediterranean Sea,” wrote the architects about the project, “and by being at the tip of a mountain chain that spreads north to south and inland.
“In a dense urban fabric, the site is one of the few on the eastern edge of the city that enjoys an open view toward the mountains. To celebrate its placement, DL Project takes shape by virtually projecting the mountain geography onto the building, creating undulating concrete ribbons that animate the façade and the neighbourhood.”
With an average of 300 sunny days per year, the country’s Mediterranean climate encouraged the architects to incorporate large outdoor areas into the building’s structure. Paralx designed these spaces to be extensions of the indoor living areas. The ‘ribbons’, curved in plan and elevation, act as shading devices for the balconies – they also create ‘pockets’ for vegetation as they travel along the perimeter.
“The privacy of the residents was extremely important from day one,” said Karim Moussawer, principal of Paralx. “As such, we wanted the office building to act as a backdrop to the wavy residential one, being in fair-faced concrete with alternating punched openings, representing the city and its built environment. Behind the concrete façade is the hallway of the office building, which was designed as single-loaded to guarantee the residents’ privacy.”
Moussawer added that while the two buildings share the same podium, which consists of six basements of parking and utilities, the separate entrances ensure that the users of the two buildings don’t actually meet.
The office building, which spans 4,776m2 of built-up area, contains a ground floor for retail and eight floors for office use, while the 6,286m2 residential building has 12 floors of apartment units that vary in size.
“Located next door to Hotel-Dieu de France, one of the major medical centres in Beirut and just a few steps away from the courthouse, the building sits in a predominantly residential area,” said Moussawer. “So, we excluded the idea of a mixed-use high rise because we didn’t think that such an approach fits this specific context.”
Concrete was the main material used in the project. The waved balconies were poured into place and painted white, while the façade of the office building was done in fair-face concrete. Dark grey aluminium panels clad the walls between the ‘waves’, emphasising their floating effect.
“The concrete waves act as sun breakers,” said Moussawer. “On the south façade, they cantilever out to shade the balconies, which is an important extension of the living space. The roof of both buildings is covered with solar panels, used mainly for domestic hot water.”
The façades of both buildings create interesting end-user experiences. With the façade of the office building pierced with irregularly placed narrow windows, sunlight dances along the interior walls and floors depending on the time of day. While on the balconies of the residential building, the waved perimeters create uniquely framed vistas of the city.
“This part of town hasn’t seen any new developments for the last few decades,” said Moussawer. “The project itself is surrounded by aging residential buildings. What it attempts to do is inject new blood into the neighbourhood, as well as a new breed of architecture that, with time, might possibly change the perception of the neighbourhood.”