The Saradar Collection’s goal is to preserve and share modern as well as contemporary art from Lebanon through the works of artists over a period starting from 1917 until today.
The design brief called for an open storage for the Saradar Collection and we set ourselves the challenge of doing so not only by addressing the complexity of the program in its duality of both conservation and presentation of works of art, but also by making sure the project is grounded in its environment, so that it can act as a physical reference for the Collection and give the Collection a sense of place.
Located on a stepped hill in the private Saradar domain and within a natural clearing of a pine tree forest, the project site presents strong physical specificities. In our proposal, we draw an analogy between the preservation of the collection for future generations as a testament to the development of culture and society and the preservation of the site where it is located.
Can we intervene on the site while allowing the forest to reclaim its place, leaving only a clearing as nature’s memory of the absence of those trees?
The actual imprint of our project on the land is a circular gap, a space around which the forest can reclaim its territory. This intervention is a reaction to the degradation of the Lebanese territory resulting from urban developments, road developments, excessive use of chemical products, and harmful agricultural techniques. Our response to the site is not only minimal in its impact, but is also in tune with its ecosystem.
A single sloping roof follows the site topography and becomes an extension of the grounds. Around the void, the program unfolds: offices, reception space and documentation center surround a central courtyard.
Direct sunlight fills the courtyard. With its 15m diameter, the courtyard is an outdoor space secluded from the outer world yet immersed in it: the pine tree ecosystem with its sounds and smells is captured in the central space. Views to the outside are framed within the circular opening: the tree canopies, the sky, the birds, the clouds. The perennity of the project is ensured, independently of future developments around.
Within the courtyard, focus is drawn to an off-center circle: a skylight that captures sunlight into the depth of the space below it. The art handling activities, the storage and display are contained in this lower space.
Under the skylight, a freight elevator travels down the ground and channels natural light with it. This is where the dichotomy between storing/handling art and viewing art is addressed. The freight elevator is a vertical transport vehicle for the art objects across the 5 levels; at other times, it becomes a platform that brings visitors to the depth of the storage. In its vertical travel, the elevator reveals to the visitors the totality of the collection, read as one single body. Natural light follows the visitors in their path of discovery. When at a stop on a certain level, with its 5x5m footprint, the freight elevator can even be used as a viewing platform: a privileged space where an artwork can be brought in close contact with the visitor.
The interiors of the storage floors offer adaptability for a growing collection including objects and installations of various sizes.
The location of the storage spaces underground minimizes the consumption of the building: un-insulated underground walls benefit from thermal mass effect. In addition to that, we have allowed for a “Canadian `well” system which supplies free cooling and heating of fresh air directed at air handling units and VRVs.
On the roof, a dedicated pathway, rests lightly on the surface of the soil and provides a landscape journey that creates another layer of encounter with the site. The landscape becomes an open air art gallery, where the journey starts with free movement on elevated pathways allowing for nature to grow underneath, and moments of pause providing for a closer contemplation of flora & fauna.
The lines of our intervention will eventually disappear as nature reclaims its place around it.
In our response to the program, we intend to demonstrate that the crafting of this building not only preserves the collection or enhances the user encounter with art, but also creates a dialogue with its environment, like a permanent site-specific art installation.
Quantity Surveying & Cost Consultant: C E Maroun Consult
Landscaping Consultant: Greener on the Other Side
Environmental Consultant: EcoConsulting
Fire & Safety Consultant: Apave
AL ZORAH COMMUNITY CENTRE
The design for the community Centre is led by three dichotomies: First, its location at both the entrance to the larger Zorah master plan, and the entrance/exit point of the community. Second, its required dual program, serving both the public and the private community, and finally, its necessity to provide outdoor functions and spaces, within the hot climate of the UAE.
In other words, the community center needs to operate as a visual landmark at the scale of the highway, while still maintaining the scale of the domestic realm surrounding it. It also needs to allow both public and private circulations, while also considering a flexibility of usage for the community dwellers that wouldn't imply a complete separation of the center in two. And it has to balance the threshold between the inside and the outside in a sustainable way that would allow the usage of the space despite the harsh climate.
Homogeneity and flexibility emerge as two crucial concepts in the design for the Centre that would allow for a variety of functions and experiences to take place within varying degrees of privacy.
Thus, the community Centre becomes both icon and landmark, souk and garden, public and communal, and ultimately, a true center.
MG Partners: Michèle Chaya, Georges Maria MG Team: Yasmina El Chami, Rita Nader, Ismail Bdeiry Engineering Consultants: Rafik El Khoury & Partners
To begin, the center encircles the plot, occupying all its accessible edges, to allow the outdoor community spaces to be sheltered within. The retail, publicly accessible functions run along the northern and western edges, in the form of a long l-shape plan.
Another, smaller L houses the community spaces, and sits at the opposite edge, as the natural extension and end to the community's street network.
In between, an open and airy circulation blurs the edges of the inside and the outdoor to bring the experience of the pool and landscape to the entire project. Imagined as a long souk, the circulation is dotted with courtyards within and alongside its covered enclosed passage, and articulates the different functions of the program on either side.
On the western edge sits the f&b retail volume, with expansive glazed facades on both sides, and a repetitive grid to allow tenant and rental flexibility.
To break the monotony of the Souk, the eastern edge receives more varied functions: an entrance courtyard, acting as a buffer between the end of the public area and the community's; the community's multipurpose hall, only opening to the pool terrace, to retain privacy; a big shaded courtyard that brings the garden all the way inside, and extends the f&b functions outdoors, yet remains hidden from the pool by bushes and foliage.
The nursery building sits perpendicularly to this spine and creates its own secluded spaces along the width of the site, sheltered by the big wall of the supermarket at its northern edge.
Finally, the most commercial spaces occupy the northernmost edge, in close proximity to the parking and public entrance. All these fragmented experiences are wrapped in a single envelope from the outside to reclaim for the Centre a unified identity. The envelope lifts and folds to create peaks, signaling the centers presence to the highway, or drops down towards a shaded piazza, to create an extension of the community's domestic realm and invite the community's inhabitant to enter. The shell, inside and out is meticulously carved to create precise shadows and ample shade, to allow each space to be carefully lit or sheltered, depending on the season, and extending the use of the projects indoor and outdoor areas throughout the year.
ART N TECHNOLOGY COWORKING HUB
The project for Antwork seeks to propose a new co-working model in a pilot project beginning in Beirut. Spread over several unbuilt plots of land and two existing French mandate era buildings, the project begins with the necessity of creating a unified identity and integrated experience within the disparate existing context.
The project hinges around a reinterpretation of the concept of the “garden”, and proposes new interventions that can connect the two existing building, through the forgotten/decaying garden that is spread between them.
The survival of this garden amidst its dense urban context is emblematic of the site’s history, and constitutes its core potential.
Sanayeh, the neighborhood, is representative of a precise moment in the progressive urbanization of Beirut. The move from the center towards this peripheral area of the historic walled city in 1905 witnessed and incurred a wave of middle class migration and a proliferation of single-family mansion typologies, following the garden block type. With successive waves of urbanization, Sanayeh found itself increasingly in the midst of urbanity, with many plots transformed first into modernist office blocks and later into high residential towers. Today only a few of these gardens survive, rare green breaks in a dense continuum of built fabric.
Antwork’s site finds itself in this confused state; a rare guardian of the city’s last remains of heritage, however unrepresentative of its present urbanity and potential.
Two iterations were developed, addressing these same challenges in two different strategic ways.
The first proposes a built intervention within the empty plots of the garden that physically links and connects the two office buildings. This third block is to embody the identity and vision of Antwork, providing and projecting the idea and requirements of the workspace of the 21st century, acting as a central node of circulation, socializing, networking and co-working across the site.
MG Partners: Michèle Chaya, Georges Maria MG Team: Yasmina El Chami, William Wehbé, Sarah El Khoury, Rita Nader, Siroun Bekerejian, Aline Sassine, Ismail Bdeiry Engineering Consultants: RKN
The intervention takes the form of the garden, but inverts and raises it.
A slab, stretching 4 meters above the ground, elevates the public level of circulation away from the street, bridging between the existing buildings.
Below, it leaves room for a large un-hierarchical infrastructure of space, to be appropriated as seen fit by its users, to be left open or enclosed, in various materials and ways.
The open plan is articulated around various sized courtyards that provide various scales and experiences of the outdoors, geared to serve the offices around them.
Above, the roof canopy becomes a large open garden more suited for public gatherings and function, visible to the street and the city, yet private and controlled.
BEACH HOUSE FACTORY CONVERSION
An abandoned distillery, decaying concrete, the blue sky, the open sea.
The project for a seaside retreat begins with these elements, all forming the site. Their first experience imbues the project and proposal.
The sea, seen through the large rhythmic openings of the concrete frame. The sky and garden on the other side, penetrating the high volume of the main distillery. The sun’s shadows, drawn across the high walls of the tanks that delineate the space.
To preserve the site’s physical and sensorial space, the intervention is conceived as a single addition, a unique element injected to shape a new life.
Within the existing structure, a layer of white terrazzo is poured and molded in place, following and linking the various levels of the space, to form continuous paths, platforms and enclosures.
The terrazzo is sculpted to house various living functions, all with a unique relationship to the concrete skeleton and the view of the constant blue horizon beyond. Its materiality and weight allow it play multiple roles: A floor underneath furniture, when the space needs to entertain, or a seat below wet bodies lying on its cold surface during the day.
This new layer is a ‘living’ datum, always facing the constant natural datum of the sea.
The edges are blurred; the sun penetrates through openings in the concrete, the terrazzo spills out on terraces beyond.
Everywhere, the constant background of the horizon dominates, echoed by the continuous edge of the white terrazzo rising and falling against the decaying concrete frame.
MG Partners: Michèle Chaya, Georges Maria MG Team:Yasmina El Chami, Ismail Bdeiry
Ramping up from the side, the terrazzo pathway runs along rhythmic narrow openings in the façade and through a large rotating metal and glass door, arrives at a slightly elevated platform, then thickens facing a large central opening, to receive a large seating area.
Behind, it steps up inside the double-height space to create a ceremonial staircase that leads up to a second level. The wide steps look back towards the sea, through the large central opening, and can turn into a cinema at night, when a roller blind drops down on the frame.
To the right, the terrazzo falls and encircles a sunken kitchen area, forming its countertop.
On the second level, extending from the large staircase, the terrazzo flows around the perimeter of the floor, leading towards the light outdoors, widening or shrinking to delineate the periphery of sleeping areas, bathing enclosures and flowerbeds.
Below, at the bottom level closest to the sea, three visitor bedrooms line behind an open colonnade, ending with a sculpted spiral terrazzo staircase that leads to the main entrance ramp above.
BEKISH MOUNTAIN HOUSES
Five families, a mountainous landscape, a view, a single land. The project aims to provide a small community of five friends and their young families private, minimal, and efficient mountain houses within the same plot.
The steep site, sloping towards the view on one side, sits near a popular mountain resort that receives heavy snow in winter, yet remains green in the summer.
A small village was conceived, discreetly anchored within the slope, as a series of shelters incised into the rocks, stepping up along the slope, each oriented following the site’s topography and the view.
The idea of “shelter” is reduced to its original meaning: a vertical frame, a horizontal roof.
Beneath each roof, two enclosures house the kitchen and services on one side, and the bedrooms on another. These form standard functional blocks, anchoring each unit.
The living spaces insert themselves amid these two enclosures, absorbing the topographic differences of the site, articulating a unique typology for each unit.
A large sliding glass wall separates the living spaces from the exterior, disappearing in the summer to allow the experience of the landscape to flow within.
Sweeping roofs stretch above these spaces, chamfered at their edges, planted in their depth, disguising as thin horizontal lines across the site.
The landscape steps up in terraces between the shelters, affording each house a private garden that flows into a common pool area set in the middle of the community, reflecting the sky and surrounding trees.
Different stone stairs trickle down across the site, connecting the various terraces, tying the small village together.
MG Partners: Michèle Chaya, Georges Maria MG Team: William Wehbé, Ismail Bdeiry
A PATTERN LIFE
AL ZORAH MASTERPLAN VILLAS
We were commissioned as part of the Al Zorah development project in Ajman to design the masterplan and architecture of the Zorah Golf area, overlooking the natural mangrove and golf course.
The first phase of the masterplan centered on the development of 200 units, divided into Grand Villas, Villas, Townhouses and Semi-Detached houses.
Client: Solidere International SI Size: 34,000m2 (BUA) Date: 2015 Status: Under Construction Location: Ajman, UAE
MG Team: Maya Moussallem, Sarah El Khoury, William Wehb, Karim Soussa, Ismail Bdeiry Engineering Consultants: Rafik El Khoury & Partners Quantity Surveyors: DG Jones & Partners
ACS SCHOOL PROJECT
After winning the competition for the design of the new faculty building on the grounds of the American Community School, MARIAGROUP was commissioned to design the new building in its current context as well as in the context of the future master plan.
Located on Nigeria Street, the building lot sits between two existing residential structures. The new Faculty Building serves as both residences for faculty members and classrooms for students.
The project offers an opportunity to rethink the relationship between campus and city, living and learning, and the challenge of designing for both in a single structure. The new building needs to serve not only its own mixed program, but also to act as a connection between the disparate existing buildings of the school, that are spread on several plots across a street.
The building challenges these dichotomies by the articulation of the façade as a single continuous element, a series of vertical concrete louvers that wrap around the entire structure, only stopping twice; once to reveal on one top corner the residential nature of the upper section, and once extending over the entire footprint of the plot on the Ground Floor, to shelter a large courtyard passage that links the two existing buildings.
The academic bloc extends over four stories and a basement, creating a podium base that is sheltered from the street and surroundings by the louvers. The circulation spaces and open areas of learning are situated along the perimeter, enlivening the façade with the student flow and movement.
The top of the learning-center-podium houses common learning areas and landscaped playgrounds, completely open to the city, and creating a visual shift from the academic base towards the residential tower.
Thus the façade becomes the articulator of these dual relationships: City and campus, living and learning, all wrapped in a single porous shell that echoes the open philosophy of learning of the school.
Client: American Community School (ACS) Area: 4,665 m2 Date: 2011 Status: Built, 2016 Location: Beirut, Lebanon
MG Partners: Michèle Chaya, Georges Maria MG Team: Maya Moussallem, Sarah El Khoury, Liliane Nehmé, Waref Sleiman Electro-mechanical Consultants: Wissam Tawil & Associates Structural Consultants: Bureau d'Etudes Rodolphe Mattar
Photography: Ieva Saudargaitè
QORTUBA VILLAS DEVELOPMENT
Area: 46,006 m2 Date: 2012 Status: Under Construction Location: Riyadh, KSA
MG Partners: Michèle Chaya, Georges Maria MG Team: Maya Mousallem, Karim Soussa, Rabih Khalifé, Boulos Doueihi, Waref Sleiman Engineering Consultants: Saudi Diyar Consultants
KHOZAM PALACE EXTENSION
The project for a new museum encompasses the restauration of the old palace of King Abdul Aziz and a new addition in the form of gallery spaces.
The design rests on the understanding of the museum as a duality, also reflected in the structure of the project. Thus the first aim of the museum is to preserve the old palace, while still allowing the new extension to form a contemporary identity, linked to the traditions and history of the place.
The “idea” of the museum is then articulated in two ways: First, in the extension of the new program as a long platform, emblematic of the contemporary notion of the museum as an open and flexible space of exchange, display, and knowledge, that can be imagined as infinite.
The platform is articulated as a series of parallel bands that run North South, below the old palace, and in alignment with the urban fabric around the site. Underneath it, galleries, shops and other activities are arranged around open courtyards, and are accessed directly from the street level through gentle slopes that slowly lower the public ground.
Simultaneously the platform offers its roof as extension of the public realm in the form of a landscaped park, popular market areas, and outdoor performance spaces.
On top, the old palace now sits on this pedestal, reinforcing the classical construction of museums as symbolic landmarks, and projecting its power and role to the surrounding site.
Date: 2012 Status: On Hold Location: Beirut, Lebanon
MG Partners: Michèle Chaya, Georges Maria MG Team: Maya Mousallem, Samer Abla, Ayssar Arida
This project for a family house for three generations is an exercise in composition- spatial, material, and scalar; to create a home where each member can feel independent yet an integral part of the whole.
Conceived for a young couple, their two children, and their grandparents, the house is hinged on a delicate balance of different parts catering for each generation, while also addressing the need for a variety of public or private occasions to unfold: Entertaining guests, meeting with neighbors, spending time together or retreating alone.
Set in the North Lebanon village of Batroumine, known for its olive trees and oil-based products, the family plot borders public olive groves to the back, and neighboring village houses on the sides.
The house is a composition of three volumes arranged as a simple L, organized along visual axes and directions that lead the eye and the body through the living spaces, to the terraces, then the garden, and the olive groves beyond.
First, a podium of rough stone, quintessential material of the traditional Lebanese house, easily accessible to the family’s eldest members and housing their quarters, along with the family’s kitchen, central to family life. This podium is the basis of the home, its origin and core. Above it sits the young couple’s volume, rendered in white plaster, complete with its own entrance, living spaces and bar.
Forming the other side of the L, the double-height public spaces for gathering and entertaining intersect the dual stone and plaster base, extending from the family kitchen perpendicularly across the plot to look onto the garden and olive fields beyond.
The main entrance articulates the porous space between this wood-clad public volume and the private axis formed by the two juxtaposed blocks. Across the main entrance, another entryway pierces the stone wall, leading to a private entrance for the elders and an exterior stair leading to the young couple’s house above.
Outside, along the main entrance wall, a long wooden bench invites the neighbors for an informal visit, typical of village life. Inside, between two white walls, the interior wood-clad stair extends the public axis up to the living area above.
Thus the circulation limits and suggests borders for each function, group or event.
When needed, the grandparents can receive guests alone downstairs, or on their private terrace, while the couple entertains in the main living area or upstairs at the bar.
Later, when the generations change, the eldest move downstairs, the children’s new families visit above, and the house begins a new cycle.
Area: 1,150 m2 Date: 2006 Status: Built Location: Koura, Lebanon
MG Partners: Michèle Chaya, Georges Maria MG Team: Joseph Chami, Maud Kobrossieh, Farah El Atrach
Photography: Géraldine Bruneel
AL ZORAH APARTMENT BUILDINGS
The project for the AlZorah buildings is articulated around three central challenges: first, its location on the edge between the AlZorah community and the highway, and the need to address both of these urban scales. Second, its vantage point towards the mangrove and the challenge of providing a maximum number of units with a view; finally, the large built area required by the program and the capacity of the scheme to reconcile between the density of such an urban development while projecting the identity and communal outdoor quality of a resort, hinged on the creation of an exterior environment that is as pleasant and desirable as the interior of the units.
To achieve this, the project is conceived as a series of masses that are built up around the northern edges of the site, creating a dense edge facing the parkway, that cascades down with lower volumes towards the east and western sides of the plot, effectively forming a secluded and sheltered oasis within the inside of the plot facing the villas and mangrove beyond.
Within this sheltered environment, public spaces for residents form varied areas of interaction or quietude: a pool terrace on one side, a landscape grove on the other.
To complete the enclosure, a fourth low volume housing the gym and multipurpose areas stretches across the southern edges, acting both as an inhabited barrier between the street and the communal gardens and as a backdrop for the pool and public life of the residents.
On the street side, this low building provides retail spaces to the public, and thus mediates programmatically and morphologically between the scale of the buildings and that of the villas facing them.
Sloping up from street level, and accessible by foot from outside the plot, the roof of the multipurpose building rises up to a level slightly higher than the top of the villas, culminating in a public belvedere that allows views towards the scenic landscape of the golf course and mangrove.
To preserve the quality of the ground as a communal space, vehicular entrances and accesses to the buildings are constrained to the northern edge of the site.
Entrance lobbies form deep recesses cutting into the thickness of the buildings, and linking the communal grounds on one side to the surface parking on the parkway side.
The ground level and lobbies are wrapped in a single continuous surface composed of a rhythmic arrangement of white rendered columns melting into fences when needed to separate the parking from the green grounds.
Above the public ground, the three buildings rise, oriented towards the mangrove and view. Their layouts are compact, in an effort to maximize the efficiently of the floor plate, and reduce circulation patterns across the project. Carefully arranged in overlapping patterns of void and mass to preserve the privacy of each, the units again turn towards the view, with large glass windows and balconies extending the views inside, and providing light, shade or sun as required.