beirut, lebanon

This project, a new addition to the Engineering School at the American University of Beirut, consists of a block of classrooms and a library. Seen from outside, it appears to be split into two buildings of different heights by a stairway that preserves pedestrian flow and existing cross-campus views. In reality, it is a single unit, with the two ‘halves’ linking under the staircase to keep the upper campus views to the sea intact. The taller of the two, the engineering building houses the classrooms and the lower, the enlarged engineering library.
Clad in low-e double-glazing and frit glass, the classroom building is also wrapped in a façade of corrugated concrete and angled louvers that function as sun-breakers. Partly buried and north facing, the library is left unclad as it is protected by surrounding buildings, which reduces its need for artificial lighting. Its roof, punctuated by three openings that admit light to lower levels and open onto planted courtyards, also doubles as a plaza, where students can congregate or study.
The classroom building is organized around a spacious, full height atrium, clad in planters, with a mechanized roof that can be opened or closed for climate control and to introduce more natural light. The upper floors of the building are angled to reflect the bend in the pathway below and the top floor is set back, both to soften the visual impact at street level and to permit the creation of a rooftop garden that creates additional thermal protection.
Together with the sunken courtyards on either side of the two buildings, which help bring light and air to underground levels, all spaces end up opening to the campus or to shaded landscaped patios.


architecture: nabil gholam architects
3D images: nabil gholam architects