Floating Carpet

Nicolas Koci, Sara Ravarotto, Letizia Ceriati
University of Trento

Project idea

The idea for the project stems from the mark that the August 4, 2020 explosion left, an open wound for the city of Beirut and its inhabitants.
The aim of the project is to give back to the people of Beirut this part of land, until recently precluded only to the functions of the industrial port, opening the borders to the sea and the port itself. An action made possible by the concept adopted, the "floating carpet," which spans the entire port area; in doing so, an attempt is made to establish the sense of domestic and familiar place that the inhabitants have long lost.
As required by the notice, the area of the industrial port was reduced by going to eliminate some of its functions; in this way, a larger area was carved out to be offered to citizens and tourists. The area has also undergone redevelopment; in fact, it has colorful geometric shapes on the ground that differentiate the different functions of the port and, contrary to what one might think, it is not completely inaccessible to the public: a suspended walkway, which runs through the entire new port area, provides ample visibility and greater transparency.
The first goal of the project is a return to nature, stimulating the five senses by also taking advantage of the natural elements, such as the sound of the wind and the sea, always giving people new emotions. In this case the grid, derived from the concept of the carpet, helps to give uniformity to the project, tying the spaces together, creating environments that can change their function over time. A constantly evolving fluid space that changes with the needs of the population.
The newly constructed buildings rise from the ground on slender steel columns and seem almost to float; what is perceived is a feeling of lightness and dialogue with the context also made possible by the terraces that offer different views. The marks left on the ground become a reference point for the subdivision of the interior spaces. The focal point of the project turns out to be the silo, now a symbol of the tragedy, this remains standing despite the damage sustained by the explosion, and the memorial that develops at its foot, a place away from the noise of traffic, marked by marble slabs that guide the path and remember the names of the victims. Finally, on the crater rises a floating building, an intimate place dedicated to memory.

Project description

At the base of the project is a grid tailored to the port of Beirut; its dimensions are 30x10 m and were obtained by multiplying by 5 those of a standard 6x2x3 m container. This grid was not only precluded from the public area of the port, but also extends over the logistics area on the right and an area of possible expansion on the left.
The grid thus defined was then developed in different ways, for example, for the paving presents a texture obtained through the use of materials of different colors. At the points where there was a junction in the old port there are now squares that are distinguished by different paving and the presence of fountains. In the logistics area, the paving is designed with geometric shapes of different colors that identify the different functions of the port.
The newly constructed buildings are thought of as floors that rise from the ground and rest on slender polished steel columns. As for the lounges, located on the waterfront, the roofs are made of curtains and reach a height of 3 m, while, as for the buildings used as a cultural center, luxury area, and new passenger terminal and market, the roofs are thought of as terraces covered with larch wood or practicable green roofs; they reach different heights ranging from 6 m to 24 m and overlap so as to create covered spaces and light plays in the area below. The latter, in both the lounges and the buildings, was designed by choosing as a starting point the marks left on the ground identifying the paths of the old port. In correspondence with them, once adapted to the grid, vertical elements are raised having different functions: dividing wall, pots for vegetation, seating, exhibition spaces, etc. such vertical elements are not only functional, but they also perform the function of guiding the visitor inside the spaces. It was decided to leave the floor plans of the rooms free so that spaces can be offered that adapt to the needs of the time, spaces that are fluid and in perpetual transformation.
There are buildings in the area that suffered minor damage as a result of the explosion. In this case, the grid crosses the volumes at different elevations, and at the points of intersection, suspended floors are created that feature slate cladding and connect the interior spaces of the buildings. For these it was planned to maintain and renovate only the load-bearing structure, depriving them of any present internal partitions.
Along the border with the city, three covered parking lots were designed having a dual function: on the one hand they screen from sunlight, and on the other they serve as roof gardens. The roofs, with heights ranging from 3m, 4m and 5m, feature larch wood cladding and earthen pools provided for the community. A fourth parking lot is planned near the port administration, as an upgrade to the existing one.
On the boundary with the sea, there are steps that run along the entire area of the lounges and cultural area. In addition to their functional and aesthetic value, they are designed to produce sounds through the waves of the sea.
The focus of the project is the silo, which is why it was decided to keep the remaining structure standing, securing it through a slender steel structure, which houses tubes made of reflective material that partially reconstruct the original shape of the silo. All around is a park used as a memorial characterized by the presence of green pools and vertical elements that guide visitors and lead them to a marble slab bearing the names of the victims. This, in turn, guides the visitor inside a floating volume at the center of the crater formed after the explosion, which can be reached through a floating platform made of treated larch wood. Here concrete paving gives way to rammed earth, which becomes sand near the crater.
Lawns and pools of water are then located at different points around the harbor.
A walkway crosses the entire port area, extending beyond the boundaries of the project area. In the vicinity of the logistics area, it rises allowing those walking along it to observe the industrial port and the activities taking place within it from above and the activities that
take place within it.

Technical information

For horizontal elements, treated larch wood is used; instead materials such as concrete, marble and sandstone are used for vertical elements;
while pillars are covered with reflective aluminum.

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