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The city of Byblos, believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Lebanese American University commissioned the studio to design a new library and a new central administration building on a previously excavated site on its Byblos Campus. This sustainable state-of-the-art new complex is driven by LAU's strategic plan to propel the institution into the limelight within leading American Universities in the region and in the world.
Byblos, which Greek name is the root of "bibliotheke" or library, is the place of the earliest Phoenician inscriptions, dating from 11th century BC. The Phoenicians, as the greatest ancient world seafarers and traders, understood the importance of an efficient and global communication system. From a complex cuneiform system relying on hundreds of signs, they devised an alphabet of 22 letters: one sign for each sound. The creation and transmission of the Phoenician alphabet happened 3,000 years ago, but it is just as relevant today. Technology is constantly enhancing and shaping the way we communicate with each other.
Inspired by the Phoenicians' dynamic spirit, we expressed the concept of connectivity and communication. Our design extends beyond the client initial request by adding an amphitheater nestled into the strikingly unorthodox site, facing southwest from an excavated mountain, whose rock fragments inform the building volumes rotated to generate space and shade.
The library and the administration are conceived as dynamic forms, and their exterior skin is progressively layered, providing a shading system according to the orientation. The overall architectural strategy centers in maximizing controlled daylight into both buildings, in extending visual continuity inside/outside and in forming fluid and flexible spaces within the buildings.
The library building is organized on four floors, with the lower ones being the information commons, open-café, and the upper ones offering study spaces, lounge areas, and support functions. The administration building has public gallery spaces on its lower floors, while office suites and conference rooms are organized on the upper floors.
Connectivity is expressed in the exterior spaces flowing seamlessly inside, while the interior spaces reinforce users' fluidity and communication through transparency and openness of the study/work areas, and in the library, the many possibilities of chance encounters along the open staircase progression, the lounge corners and café.
Passive design features inspired from the local typology are incorporated into the design: the second skin offers external legibility and internal protection, while the library open atrium will function as a passive chimney vent. The library of the 21st century creates common ground for diverse student activities and forms of information: a place for exchange, communication, learning, and understanding.
Phoenicians inspire new LAU Byblos Library - LAU magazine Summer 2015
Integrale Konzepte: Library, Byblos, Lebanon - Bauen im Kultur – und Klimawandel (Building the Culture and Climate Change) by Ulrich Pfammatter (v/d/f Verlag © 2012)
AIANY New York/New World group exhibit – New York, NY - October 2013
AIANY CHANGE: Architecture and Engineering in the Middle East, 2000-Present group exhibit – New York, NY – February 2012
APT Architecture(Atelier Pagnamenta Torriani) is the design architect for this project, and RELK&P are the Consulting Engineers of Record.