Herzog & de Meuron builds a tower of vertically layered luxury apartments

Beirut Towers by Herzog & de Meuron. Photos Iwan Baan

BEIRUT – A tower of stacked concrete plates seems to break the rule of faceless apartment blocks that are being erected in central Beirut as part of a desperate attempt to rebuild the city following the devastation caused by the 2005 assassination of late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Herzog & de Meuron is the latest contributor to the city’s masterplan to rejuvenate the area with offices and high-rise residential towers.

An outsider’s impression of Beirut is said to be one of patchwork districts, with areas so different from one another that it is often unapparent what the combined intention might be. With a single metre of green space per person – a mere ten per cent of the recommended minimum laid out by the World Health Organisation – the architect had more to consider than the project’s spatial footprint.

The Beirut Terraces project acts as a vertical city defined by five key principles: layers and terraces; inside and outside; views and privacy; light and identity; and vegetation and architecture. The result is a highly-refined, vertically-layered apartment building with a unique presence amongst the urban aesthetic of the city.

Five modular floors are repeated in different combinations up the height of the 119-m tower, incorporating a mixture of apartment types and sizes, including multi-storey duplexes and a top-floor penthouse. Most importantly to the success of the project – and the solution to the five key principles – is the design of the stacked concrete slabs which create not only floor plates and terraces but overhanging shelter for solar protection.

Perforations are used to allow sunlight to filter through to the otherwise-sheltered terraces and the intention is that the tower will ultimately become engulfed in vegetation to provide shade and privacy to the residences.

A curtain wall of floor-to-ceiling glazing creates the building’s structural perimeter, merging the visual threshold between the inside and the outdoors. The city’s climate make exterior living a standard part of life – an asset which is capitalised through the generous terraces that protrude a minimum of 60 cm and wrap around the tower’s full circumference.

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