Construction within the historic district of Gemayzeh is subject to approval from the urban council of Beirut. However, with the absence of strict design guidelines, the review is often a subjective assessment based on perceived similarities between the proposed design and historical buildings in the area. Unfortunately, this translates into towering structures out of context with the neighboring buildings, often decked with ornamental arcades and historical detailing that have little to do with the actual building scale and proportions.
Rather than adopting this “post-modernist” approach, the design of the hotel emphasizes contextual integration through massing and materiality. The building volume occupies the maximum allowable envelope, while balconies are confined to the maximum one meter envelope exemption. As a result the total allowable built area is achieved within the minimum possible height. The mass is further reduced by responding to the imposed setbacks. The predominant traditional Lebanese yellow stone, a staple of the local vernacular houses, is transformed into thin strips that create a light skin shading all the exterior balconies and allowing for passive cooling and natural ventilation. This intricate shading device gives shape to the building as a receding volume integrated into the urban fabric.
The Sophia Hotel / Beirut, Lebanon / 2013 / 3500sqm