In assessing the entries submitted to the third cycle of the Omrania | CSBE Student Award for Excellence in Architectural Design, the jury members agreed to consider the changing dynamics and the evolving discourse affecting architecture and architectural education, and not to support sustaining outmoded and no longer relevant architecturalparadigms.
Moreover, the jury viewed creativity and originality as a major criterion, but it also considered the entries’ social and environment relevance. The jury appreciated the social, political, and economic conditions that the students have projected. Moreover, the jury concentrated on assessing the students’ architectural responses to the problems that their tutors identified.
The Jury considered the uneven conditions and the differing educational briefs and objectives that the various participating students represent. In the final result, it decided not to rank the projects, but instead distributed five equal prizes.
“Choreographic Center in Oman”
This entry shows a very good analysis of the movements, stretches, and tension associated with dance. The analysis of the movements has been explored in sequential and permutational orders so as to generate pattern as the basis of form. Even though the analysis addresses Indian dance, the method is generic and may be conceived as being universal.
The project generates lines of forces based on positions and movements that originate in dance, then transforms those into architectural forms. The lines of the forces transformed into form show a persuasive relationship to their origin (dance) and destination (architecture). The overall process of this generation of form is original, creative, and inspiring.
The generated patterns also effectively relate to the surrounding landscape, and are sensitively transformed into building form. The final result is an entity that is in harmony with nature and landform.
The Jury appreciated the project’s commitment to both free thinking and well-disciplined analysis.
The project, however, needs to employ clear structural systems, and its spaces must be formed in line with those systems. A clear explanation of the design decisions made is needed for the selection of materials and method of construction.
“No Man’s Land”
This project expresses freedom in a creative and experimental way.
It has succeeded in transforming a pertinent political issue (the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) into basic elements of architectural value. Important factors of site, territory, and borders are addressed through an architectural vocabulary based on bridging, geometric nodes, platforms, surfaces, and gestures.
The student has presented an explosive architecture that explores issues related to freedom, and that provokes us to think further about those issues.
The project has a strong concept and clear architectural expression. The presentation is graphically well designed. The drawings and renderings are expressive.
The student has succeeded in following up on the concept of interaction, establishing effective visual communication and programmatic relationships linking the different functions through the creation of several strata that address both sides of the valley. These interconnect and fold to link and form the ramps and steps.
The plan follows two grids that connect at a central zone, giving access to the series of public spaces overlooking each other.
The openings in the building take the form of thin and large slits depending on the amount of light that needs to get through.
The total expression is that of slabs, surfaces, openings, and bridges, rather than doors, windows, and rooms.
This project has high architectural qualities, a clear concept expressed in the sequence of overlapping layers that form the project. Another sequence of renderings expresses the journey within the building.
The structure, however, needs more study. The thresholds between the project’s decorative and structural elements are blurred and need to be clarified.
The project presents an abstract feeling of materials that gives it a strong and unified expression.
“Development of Beirut's First Pier”
The project provides a very sober understanding of its site, a highly-prominent junction of the city with its water front. Its major gesture of an intrusive mass growing into the sea provides a culmination of a prevailing direction in Beirut’s urban evolution as a city encroaching on the sea and meeting it face to face.
Through meticulous planning, the design has consolidated a complex program in a convincing manner, showing how design development is an integral part of any architectural project. This is the strongest design in terms of taking on the extra step of thinking through the major architectural questions affecting the building.
The design generated from shifting planes along strong contextual site lines resulted in a bold massing that has managed nonetheless to tread lightly on the waterfront and to recall typologies related to port cities without engaging in simplistic typological borrowings.
However, as with many massing concepts developed from plane shifts, the building envelop seems to have been developed as an afterthought, and is not at a similar level of development as the rest of the design.
“A Story about the Future of an Old Building”
Iconic buildings from the past present a major challenge to modern use, especially when their history carries the scars of war. In this project, the designer has taken the very bold move of presenting the building as is, juxtaposing a new light framework that serves as an additional skin. This enables the use of the building without undermining the effects of time. The juxtapositioning opens the building up for new uses and brings it back to life.
The new metal structure operates on many levels: the symbolic, functional, and structural. Its major success is found in the fact that it neither aims at overwhelming nor worshiping its past. It is simply there because it needs to be there. It is so very well integrated into the function and fabric of the old building. The design could benefit from a further solidification of its intention by actually considering the structural role of the new metal framework in a more realistic manner. Still, the designer has managed to develop an intervention, which, despite its very odd shape, seems to naturally belong to
the project program.
Considerable attention is paid to the interface between the old fabric and the new one while developing a functional yet flexible program. The city of Beirut has seen many attempts at re-weaving its urban fabric and consolidating the divide line that separated its eastern and western parts. This project is not a reconciliation with “the other,” like many of Beirut's previous projects that tackled the question of damaged buildings along the green line; it is about coming to peace with ”the self.”
Omar Abdulaziz Hallaj