Botanical Beirut

Keturah Ryan-Palmer
University of Central Lancashire
United Kingdom

Project idea

The problem being faced currently is:
- Lack of USP, cultural identity and seafront attractions for tourists and residents alike;
- Active plate boundaries mean port safety is of the utmost importance as explosions, however minor, can precipitate unexpected plate movement and increase the frequency of natural disasters;
- Lack of public green spaces in Beirut;
- Lack of public confidence in the safety and stability of Beirut in addition to traumatic memories due to its history of natural and man-made disasters;
- Economic uncertainty and lack of employment due, in part, to prior disasters.
Therefore, we need:
- A refuge, a haven, a fortress, a citadel – an impenetrable, regenerative safe space;
- A green healing space (an oasis/ an Eden) accessible, beneficial and significant to every person in Beirut - now and forever;
- Multitudinous, flexible and guaranteed opportunities for economic regeneration and employability.
This will be accomplished via:
- Foliage to offset wind, water and other effects in the event of natural disaster caused by the Levant Fault System;
- Connecting both proposed buildings, a Conference Centre and Museum, with an Arboretum thus enabling foot traffic and green transport between them as a modern reinterpretation of the historic Green Line;
- Creation of a bridge past the port which will prevent congestion of commercial traffic to the newly designed port silo and surrounding warehouses.

Project description

The solution to the identified issues forms a tripartite project comprising the following:
- A – The Unity Conference Centre and Hotel
An exploration of the concepts of scale, volume and perceptions of grandeur, the Unity Conference Centre and Hotel will redefine and re-establish the purpose, significance and economic heart of the region. It will serve as a business and research hub to attract experts, tourists and enterprise from Lebanon, the Middle East and beyond.

- B – The Arboretum and Port Area –
The Arboretum bridge, whilst performing the crucial function of acting as a permanent commemorative memorial for all 218 people who died on August 4th, 2020 (and the seven thousand + who were injured) as a result of the explosion, will also operate as an open-air gallery and collaborative art piece. The Arboretum, itself, will act as the lungs of the design.

- C – The Botanical Museum of Beirut
Inclusion of a museum within the project will elevate the academic credentials of Beirut and position it alongside the most eminent cities as a centre of learning and intellectual excellence. In addition to attracting the greatest minds to the region, the Botanical Museum of Beirut will highlight the horticulture and botany of Lebanon whilst referencing and reiterating its history as home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient (and, now, Modern) World – the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Technical information

A – The Unity Conference Centre and Hotel
- A steel framed structure with prefabricated concrete walls sitting within the steel frame. Insulation, plasterboard and finishes as secondary and tertiary additions.
- Pitched roof with mid-section lip gutter for water retrieval and reuse within all areas of the design.
- Inspired by Patrick Lam, Sim-Plex Design Studio, the Conference Centre has fixed wooden seating which, using a hydraulic mechanism, descends into the floor when an amber light is activated at the earliest warning stage of an impending seismic even/natural or man-mad disaster. The flattened floor will ensure ease of exit and minimise potential stampeding and/or congestion.
- Reinforced obscured and transparent glass floor panels throughout the courtyard around the perimeter of the Unity Conference Centre and along the length of the Arboretum draw light into the centre of the plan and illuminate the basement level.
- The 5-metre roof overhang and integrated Cedar of Lebanon louvres add shade and regulate air flow and light penetration.

B – The Arboretum and Port Area
- Arboretum bridge is a beam bridge.
- The revised port area consists of twelve concrete silos each of four pre-constructed cylindrical sections.

C – The Botanical Museum of Beirut
- Constructed of precast concrete floor panels with plastered SIPs panels infilling a steel frame to form walls.
- Decoratively pierced sheets of premade CorTEN (2000x2500mm) provide a bronzed exterior finish.
- Foundations will require piling given the Levant Fault.

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