American University Of Beirut, Suliman S. Olayan School Of Business
This winning competition proposal for AUB’s new Suliman S. Olayan School of Business building has received the Progressive Architecture Citation Award (2004).
The design by Machado & Silvetti has been precisely conceived from the outside in and from the inside out. From the outside in means that it has been generated from the point of view of campus planning, aiming to produce the best and clearest exterior spaces, maximum pedestrian connectivity, desirable lines of vision and the proper building mass (building height and profile, etc.) according to its location and its relations to adjacent buildings.
Thus the scheme proposes, first, a large green oval that carefully located on the axis of existing steps that will become a major access to the sea, a connector bringing large numbers of students from the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, and beyond to the Corniche’s elevated edge. This new quadrangle has the effect of bringing the street positively into the campus community of buildings, while giving the School of Business its own nameable and identifiable lawn.
Second, the proposal creates an L-shaped four-story building with a first floor – or ground plane – consisting of four enclosed pieces traversed by paths. These are grouped around the School’s central space, a triangular open courtyard, a place for spontaneous congregation that can easily be referred to as its “heart” or its “lung” – given its breathing, cooling function.
This floor is very porous and transparent; it promotes collegiality and contains the school’s lobby, the auditorium, the café and its terrace, as well as student facilities, mailboxes, and related social programs. The building has a generous corner on the Corniche, a corner that recognizes its exceptionally good location while maximizing views of the sea from the Upper Campus.
Third, a stone garden wall and planters define the campus edge and include a pedestrian gate, the only campus gate on the Corniche, to be used mostly for sporting or academic events at the School of Business. This gate will constitute one terminus (the other being the Main Gate) of the only north-south promenade connecting the New Lower Campus to the Upper Campus.
This building has also been developed from the inside out, which means that its configuration results from focused attention on its program, the production and the transmission of knowledge, the ways in which it will be used, the quality of its interior life, and the specific particularities of this school, its personality and its people.
In terms of clarity of organization, legibility and easy way-finding; the undergraduate education facilities are located on the second floor, graduate education – the MBA program – on the third, and the Executive Education program on the fourth floor, which also contains the Dean’s Office in its corner. A triangular courtyard joins these three levels, and each overlooks the space, enriching it with their different lives.
The building displays a unique and strong image (thus helping to establish the branding of the AUB School of Business), very much of its place – understood as being both of Beirut and the American University – as well as of today. It is undoubtedly a contemporary building, but in a manner aimed at permanence and appropriateness at all levels: cultural, climatological, technological, ethical, budgetary, etc.