Al Mathaf Neighbourhood, Beirut, Lebanon

This distinctive, landmark building in Beirut’s museum district offers a new home to Lebanon’s leading bank and has been designed upon fully sustainable principles both within and without. The First National Bank Headquarters sits upon a prominent site close to the National Museum of Beirut, as well as many key corporate and governmental buildings. Here, Raed Abillama Architects created a sculptural form for the Bank’s new flagship, composed of two main towers connected at each level by a recessed glass fronted ‘bridge’.

 The towers are carefully positioned according to the character of the site itself, but also according to the movement of the sun and the nature of the views from the different parts of the building. A vital element of the overall design approach was the development of a customized sun shading system, which offers a second skin for those parts of the building most exposed to the sun.

 The bespoke façade elements that form this latticed sun screen are made of Glassfibre Reinforced Concrete (GRC) and float upon the glass surface of the building itself. These characterful lozenges have been intelligently placed to correlate with the movement of the sun through the day, helping to control the temperature of the interiors and reduce the need for energy intensive artificial cooling.

 This passive façade is one of the most important elements within an extensive portfolio of eco-friendly measures applied to the Headquarters. Landscaping and planting were also key concerns, with the introduction of green roofs, terraces and peripheral trees and shrubs using native species with minimal water irrigation needs. A modular planting system to the rear of the building, similar to a green wall, helps to provide privacy from neighbouring buildings while adding to the palette of greenery.

 Using a carefully curated mixture of indigenous, evergreen and deciduous planting for terracing and landscaping helps to reduce the amount of water required, with storm water collected on site especially for this purpose. The extensive planting helps to improve both well-being and air quality, with this thinking also carried through to the interiors of the building, which feature indoor planters on all levels.

 

The towers themselves are arranged over eleven principal storeys, within an overall floor plan that also allows for twenty years of projected growth by the bank itself. A First National Bank retail branch has been located at ground floor and mezzanine level, while a cafeteria also sits at the base of the building. The offices on the floors above are punctuated with meeting rooms, common spaces and an auditorium, offering a flexible range of functions and possibilities within the one building. In addition, there are eight subterranean levels providing discreet spaces for services and parking.

 

Sitting within the context of a sustainable design approach, materials have been selected according to provenance and performance. The palette includes travertine tiles and regionally sourced timber for office joinery, all helping to reduce the total carbon footprint. The building also uses solar thermal energy to provide hot water, energy efficient mechanical systems and lighting, as well as a closely controlled indoor environment that benefits from a highly insulated building envelope working in synergy with the special sun shading screen.