Plot # 732 is situated in a dense residential area of Achrafieh, an eastern district of Beirut. With a modest plot area of 209 m² and an allowable built-up area of 1573 m² (gross), the project’s eastern façade runs along Chehade Street, perpendicular to Abdel Wahab El-Inglizi Street.
The narrow nature of Chehade Street coupled with the density of the neighbourhood, especially expressed by the substantially high building across the street, gives rise to two challenges: a lack of daylight, as well as a privacy issue resulting from vis-à-vis instances.
Consequently, the street-facing eastern façade of the building is fully glazed insuring maximum natural light, however simultaneously creating unwanted vis-à-vis occurrences. This fundamental contradiction thus brought about the installation of an elementary structure of interlocking wooden elements, along which a vegetal curtain forms through the foliage of the plants embedded in suspended clay pots. The relationship with the exterior becomes a controlled one, as this second skin operates simultaneously as a filter for privacy, as well as one for the elements, allowing wind and light to seep into the spaces all the while transforming the building seasonally.
Unlike the traditional residential typology of the region, which tends to clearly draw a very tight limit between public domain and private building, this scheme’s structural approach results in a fairly atypical reading of the building in its surroundings. Due to site dimensions of approximately 10 m x 20 m, implying relatively small dwellings, in great part already consumed by the vertical circulation core, our intervention takes a radical measure structurally, which consists of confining the structural elements solely to two completely load-bearing parti walls at the southern and northern side facades, as well as to the vertical circulation core.
This simultaneously gives rise to unobstructed free plans at every level, as well as conveys the slabs and walls of the building – which are lifted off the ground in order to provide parking spaces at street level – as a black frame in its most minimal expression encasing the glazing at the principal façade, seemingly floating above the ground floor and straddling the two parti walls. The pavement extends from the public sidewalk, right under this said frame without ever vertically coming into contact with it, all the while accentuating the intention of merging the public with the private.
Moreover, the ability to completely expose the reception space to the exterior by concealing sliding glass panels in the kitchen façade further demonstrates the intention to encourage the private to meet the public, especially when overlooking a particularly narrow street in such a dense urban context.
By attempting to inscribe itself into the fabric of its environment through these understated yet intentional gestures, this project seeks to become a product of its context. It is aimed at presenting a subtle yet different way of inhabiting the city, a different way of dealing with the neighborhood; a particular relationship with the outside, with the fabric, with the elements.