L22 and DEGW have designed a project for a major corporate building in a place, Beirut, that has always been one of the busiest financial and cultural centres in the Middle East: the new Holcom Headquarters. Located over in the eastern part of the city between Corniche Pierre Gemayel and Rue Emile Lahoud, high-speed roads cutting across greater Beirut from north to south, the new headquarters of Holcom is a large building with six floors above ground level, standing in an area undergoing complete redevelopment in a privileged location with views towards the city centre on one side and the hills around the city on the other.
Holcom HQ is based on the idea of bringing together over 20 companies belonging to the holding in one single building that will be a highly iconic landmark on Beirut’s cityscape.
The project draws on a dense and, at the same time, diversified concept for interpreting Holcom’s identity based on a sequence of layers accommodating various different functions on its different levels, ranging from warehouses to cutting-edge office spaces, all enveloped in a double skin, which, together with the interiors, forms one single coherent and coordinated system. Built over seven levels above ground covering 35,000 m² of space, Holcom H-Q. can accommodate up to 1000 people and various different organisations at the same time, thanks to a project focusing on a successful combination of factors:
- A balance between enhancing its surfaces and making its spaces as people-friendly as possible (green areas, terraces, communal places, offices, car parks, conference facilities)
- Rational management of both internal and external flows
- Optimisation of all energy/environmental aspects
- Flexibility of its interiors (space planning and architectural features)
- An architectural design capable of creating open interaction between modernity and tradition.
The building makes an immediate impact as a distinctive landmark: the façade is a mediating interface between modernity and the traditional style of the cultural area in which the building is located. The outer cladding, composed out of a metal grid and chrome-plated features combined into heterogeneous modules, which together create a sort of random effect, instilling unity on the entire building structure.
The most distinctive feature of the building is its double skin, designed based on two systems: a seamless glazed curtain wall placed 20 cm beyond the edge of floors to allow the installation of a strip of heat and sound insulation, and outside cladding. The outside skin creates a dynamic pattern that tones down the overall building mass and unifies its structural layout.
Flexibility and technology are the cornerstones of this business concept. As well as making the interior space brighter and more pleasant to inhabit, the subtractions and dividing up of the structures into three also dictate the public and private flows, as part of a system in which work and relational spaces are both separate and interconnecting on every level.
The support hubs are the connective tissue of the various corporate functions. A scheme that has allowed efficient and linear floor layouts based on a 1.5-metre functional modulus setting out all the different elements into a flexible and coherent system, from the façade and raised floor to the double-ceiling that follows and accompanies the modulus by means of a multipurpose frame structure housing glass partitions, lighting appliances and other components (air conditioning, curtains, sound barriers), all of which can be repositioned.
The same principle of flexibility over time also dictated the stacking plan aimed at enhancing all the building spaces, from the mezzanines with their own office areas to those sections whose floor depth can be adapted to accommodate parking, storage or new support functions just by means of simple, economical adjustments: to cater for the future needs of a large building grouping together over 20 companies under one single roof.
The office areas are mainly set out based on an open-space plan. The offices conform to the very latest guidelines for a modern-day working environment in terms of organisational flexibility and comfort (acoustics, technical lighting, technology) with dedicated areas for workstations, formal/informal support and relaxing. Everything culminates in two executive management areas connected together by a panoramic terrace and crowned by a steel roof structure holding up the photovoltaic system. DEGW took charge of the space planning and interior design.
A spacious and welcoming lobby area on the ground floor is the first means of access to the company. An informal meeting area and coffee bar are the ideal places for receiving guests or enjoying short breaks and informal conversations. A small retail area, consisting of two shops, reinforces the group’s identity. The first sells IT and electronic goods marketed by Holcom. The second is devoted to international design: a way of enhancing the company’s aspirations in terms of lifestyle.
The canteen has been designed like a cafeteria and restaurant: open from morning until late afternoon, it is used all day long as a congregation place. The three-story parking facility has over 450 parking spaces.
The dividing up into different structures allows public and private pathways to be created, making the interior space more brightly lit and pleasant to inhabit. That is why the project has located the client areas in the structures connecting the separate levels, linking them to the office spaces by means of support hubs. The interior design project has created a layout of efficient, linear floor plans based around a 1.5-metre functional modulus (the same as the façade’s), which arranges the elements into a coherent and flexible system. All the office spaces are constructed around an integrated system of raised floors-double ceilings that allows the utmost flexibility of spaces, access to the systems in the double ceilings and floors for inspection purposes, and the incorporating of lights.
Environmental issues are of primary importance in this project: starting with the shell, which, bearing in mind the strong and intense light in Beirut, is designed to maximise day-lighting, reduce the use of artificial lighting and, at the same time, protect the exposed surfaces from powerful sunlight.
The shell is a skin composed of two sub-systems: external shielding enveloping the entire building, whose density modulates in an apparently random way but is actually the result of an in-depth study into how sunlight strikes the building that was carried out using parametric software (reducing temperatures by 78%), and a glazed curtain wall placed beyond the edge of the building to leave room for an efficient strip of heat and sound insulation, whose high-quality glass reduces the residual sole factor by a further 50% resulting in an overall rating of ≤ 0.1 without interfering with the lighting in the interiors.
As well as the high degree of shielding against sunlight provided by the double skin that notably reduces temperature levels, the building is also equipped with a 110 kW photovoltaic system, including a roof system (1200 m²) and vertical system located on the main terrace, thereby covering over 20% of energy requirements.
The entire building is managed by a complex system (BMS, building management system), which automatically manages the mechanical system, guaranteeing high performance levels without losing energy, and also controls the lighting by means of LCS (lighting control system) to optimise costs and consumption levels.
Another environmental sustainability feature is the decision to mainly use local materials, such as the stone cladding, as part of a local-sourcing line of thinking that informs the entire building design.
Nature and architecture
The building is the result of careful structural movements: with internal patios, wells of light, and the incorporating of natural features in the architecture (Mediterranean vegetation, pools of water etc.), partly to balance out humidity levels.
Greenery is an extremely important part of the project: 3 little internal courtyards accommodating 10 metre-tall bamboo plants, 5 trees that are 8 metres tall casting shadows across the two terraces, 18 trees to recreate the old boundary wall, a wood of 500 m² of citrus fruits consisting of 65 plants coming in 5 different species, and a 90 m² landscaped wall on the ground floor opposite the main lobby. These green features, which can be seen from every floor and every block of the building, create a relaxing and sensitive atmosphere, undoubtedly unique of its kind in this entire neighbourhood that mainly houses industrial buildings or constructions badly in need of repair and redevelopment.
Client: Holcom sal
Project leader: Marco Amosso
Architect on site: Domenico Ghirotto
Timing: 2011 - 2015
Place: 460 Corniche Al Nahr Street, Beirut, Lebanon
Area: 35.000 mq
Lead Design Architect: Lombardini22 & DEGW Italia
Local Architect: Atelier des Architectes Associés – AAA SARL
Structural: eng. Nabil Hennaoui
Mechanical: eng. Fouad Hanna
Electrical: eng. Gilbert Tambourgi
Partners: Alias, Alessi, Bolon, Braun&Wuerfele, Cappellini, Cassina, EMU, Fantoni, Gemino International, Glass Line, Haworth, iGuzzini, Lualdi, Marazzi, Soema, Unifor, Vitra, Wicona