BLF’s future headquarters marks start of a new era for Beirut’s urban landscape Lebanon’s banking sector finances close to 30 percent of the country’s private construction activity, with a growing loan portfolio that has reached nearly $10 billion, according to the latest estimates. Yet, when it comes to investing in their headquarters, most banks have failed to inspire. With the exception of a few skyscrapers that were erected in recent years, the country’s leading financial institutions have yet to leave a unique impact on the country’s construction landscape the way they have been successful in managing money and financing the government needs under strenuous circumstances. Banque Libano‐Française, however, is seeking to set a precedent through the launching of an international architecture competition for new headquarters that reflects the bank’s corporate values, on the one hand and its solid business growth over the past decade and ambitions for the future on the other, according to its General Manager Raya Raphaël Nahas.Raphaël Nahas, who is personally overseeing the early stages of the project, has toured Europe last year together with Italian Architect and Curator Luca Molinari to meet with more than 35 well‐established names and rising stars in the world of architecture. “We were looking for architects who are capable of understanding, internalizing and interpreting the Bank’s values, traditions and ambitions for our new headquarters in Beirut,” she explains.8 finalists were short‐listed comprising Danish American BIG, Spanish Barozzi Veiga, British Farshid Moussavi, Japanese Kengo Kuma, Italian Pivarch, Norwegian‐American Snohetta, as well as Lebanese Nabil Gholam and Youssef Tohme. The selected architects were invited to a three‐day introductory workshop in Beirut Jan. 21 to 23, 2016. Accompanied by Nahas, senior officials at BLF and a number of specialists, they got to know the bank’s identity and needs, and visited premises, the city of Beirut, and the site of BLF’s new headquarters located in the dynamic and creative Mikhael’s kill area that overlooks the sea and the port.“This site will place BLF at the heart of Beirut vibrant economic and artistic district,” Nahas says.She explains that the new headquarters should not only blend with the urban landscape of Beirut but should also represent a 'second home' for BLF employees and improve the working environment."The building’s state‐of‐the‐art architecture, energy‐efficient systems, green design, automated features, advanced infrastructure and high‐tech connectivity, should trigger productivity, encourage interaction and bolster innovation", she adds."Our Bank witnessed a very important development during the last 12 years, multiplying its balance sheet by 4 and its workforce by 2, and we are committed to keep on growing despite the very challenging environment. We believe architecture can shape behaviors and create great experiences to BLF community and our new workplace will not only reflect our development but will also establish the continuity of our history,” Nahas says.The eight finalist architects will return in April to showcase their work in front of a technical commission and a jury including members of BLF’s board of directors and several well‐known personalities. The winner will then be announced in the second half of April 2016.“We want our new headquarters to be a powerful urban actor that will make a difference in the contemporary city condition, and will dialogue with Mar Mikhael and Beirut through welcoming community spaces and several connections with its neighborhoods,” concludes Nahas.
The SitePlot 659 is located in the District of Medawar overlooking on north the coastal running thoroughfare and main entrance to Beirut Charles Helou Avenue that divides the site from the very sparsely populated littoral Quarantine district to the Medawar district. The plot faces to the west the modernist landmark Electricité du Liban Headquarters, designed in the 1966 by Pierre Neema, while on the East the plot is adjacent to Plot 159 where a new project is under planning. The district developed residentially during the late 19th century with a strong traditional architectural character, nowadays presents itself as an art incubator neighborhood with plenty of important art galleries, design firms and graphic offices as well as restaurants, pubs and coffee shops.
Barozzi Veiga is an architectural office devoted to architecture and urbanism, founded in 2004 in Barcelona by Fabrizio Barozzi and Alberto Veiga. Has won numerous prizes in national and international competitions among them: the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture ‐ Mies van der Rohe Award, International FAD Award and European Architectural Heritage Award in 2015, Design Vanguard Award in 2014, Young Talent of Italian Architecture in 2013, Best Young Catalan Office and Young Architect of the Year Leaf Award by Emirates Glass with RIBA in 2007.Big is a group of architects, designers and thinkers operating within the fields of architecture, urbanism, research and development with offices in Copenhagen and New York City. BIG’s recently won the World Architecture Award in Cultural Category, the RIBA Award, AIA National Regional & Urban Planning Honor Award, AIA NY Project Merit Award, AIA National Architecture Honor Award, MIPIM AR Future Award Big Urban Projects, DETAIL Award, American Planning Association Creativity & Ingenuity in Planning, Rethinking the Future Award Mixed‐Use Concept, First Award, between others.Farshid Moussavi Architecture is a London‐based international architectural practice founded in 2011 by the award‐winning architect and professor Farshid Moussavi. Received numerous awards with her previous practice (FOA) including the Enric Miralles Prize for
Architecture, six RIBA Awards, the 2004 Venice Architecture Biennale Award and the Charles Jencks Award for Architecture.Founded in 1990 by the pluri‐awarded Japanese architect Kengo Kuma is an office with two branches in Tokyo and Paris. The principal aim of their architectural approach reside into the research of a special equilibrium between the material space and the environment, blending wisely architecture and nature features.The Principal Nabil Gholam, ex Associated at Ricardo Bofill’s Taller de Arquitectura, has set up in 1994 the Beirut‐based office after having worked and traveled around the world since his graduation. Between the many awards lately the Firm received the Architectural Review MIPIM Future Project Awards 2015, a special mention for the German Design Awards 2015, the Iconic Design Awards in 2014 and the Green Good Design Award in 2012.
Piuarch was established in 1996 in Milan, the brainchild of its four founding partners Francesco Fresa, Germàn Fuenmayor, Gino Garbellini and Monica Tricario. Piuarch's projects take form from the recuperation of industrial areas to public buildings, complexes for residential and office purposes and town planning. The Firm received many prizes, between others: 2013 Architect of the year by National Order of the Italian Architects, in 2012 and 2009 the Honorable Mention for the Gold Medal for Italian Architecture.Snøhetta began as a collaborative architectural and landscape workshop, and has remained true to its trans‐disciplinary way of thinking since its inception in 1989. Today, Snøhetta has grown to become an internationally renowned practice of architecture, landscape and interior architecture and brand design. Comprised of two main studios, in Oslo, Norway and New York, USA and have been plentifully awarded from 2004 until nowadays.The Beirut‐based office that seeks to create “an infinite chain of exchange between the builders and the users” was found by Youssef Tohme in 2008 with two partners Anastasia Elrouss and Roger Akoury. Winner of the Urbanism Prize of the Architecture French Academy in 2015, curator of the Biennale of Architecture, Planning and Design in Bordeaux Agora 2014, winner in 2013 of “Brazza” competition, and winner of the Young Arab Architects Competition in Paris (CA’ASI, Institut du Monde Arabe) for the design of the Innovation Economy and Sports Campus in 2012.