ACHRAFIEH TOWER GROUND FLOOR UPGRADING
The building committee of this existing and inhabited Achrafieh iconic tower contacted us to save their project. Upon our site visit we were surprised to witness one of the more valuable tower properties in Beirut was served by a mediocre ground floor interior lobby but also a very poor consideration of the main functional planning at the ground floor of such a tower in terms of pedestrian access and landscape.
A very busy architectural composition weighed down on a squashed ground floor with awkward geometry and volume.
The street side pedestrian access was not planned to relate to the actual entrance lobby.
The support parking area was finished as a service area while being immediately visible to the drop off zone.
The perimeter fence was one not reflecting the image of the tower.
Very little care given to planting and lighting design.
A clumsy canopy
This is just outside
Inside, the lobby was designed to be a simple finishing of the structural elements with noble material and very impressive crystal chandeliers, with little to no care for orientation to either of the two main cores, nor to other service entrances.
In short, we proposed to completely upgrade/overhaul the full ground floor starting from the street, up to the lift lobbies and everything in between.
The " arrival experience" we designed for the visitor or the building tenants was one of discovery.
We planned a "surprise" at the main lobby that reveals itself in stages, which also reflect the change in lighting conditions as well as the procession of arriving from the public to the most private part (from street to the lift lobby).
In achieving that, we re worked the existing external fence by playfully omitting a select few of the "jail" like tubes, and introducing an expanded metal sheet which reacts to the moving eye of the viewer traveling by car. A certain level of privacy is achieve this way.
A silly fountain was replaced by an elegant zinc clad wall housing the sliding doors, but also staging a centennial olive tree, also housing the main pedestrian entrance door and the project title.
Once passed this transition element, the support parking area access is flanked by a new green wall which introduce a leafy green experience to an otherwise very mineral space.
To be fair, our plan to replace the dull light colored stone cladding with a darker volcanic rock finish, topped by a linear and slim canopy "terminating" the upper busy geometry "thrown down" onto the viewer, all these were scrapped for budgetary concerns. The experience would have been complete with them, as it would have continued the "dark" shades (both elegant and practical concealing a lot of the grit from the street pollution) and introducing the " heart" of the project, inserted within the 6m high ground floor lobby.
A golden "nest" within a golden envelope immediately tones down the intensity of the dark exteriors. The lobby is a "lieu de passage" , one is meant to be swift, so the impression desired was high and the visual impact is there for it. The reflections of the tubes, set against the view to the outside shaded down, yields impressions rather than actual viewing. You know where you arrived from, the outlines hint to it without showing it. You are already inside, in another "place".
The two black baccarat chandelier complement this contemporary "palatial" presence, and frame an amazing desert rose shaped Basbous sculpture, which naturally orient the visitors to either of the two cores.
The visitor finally arrives to the crisp, white crystal glass clad lift lobby, served by an invigorating lighting during the day, and dimmed in the evenings.
All the details and special material selection were developed to complement this experience of transition.
Finally, the apex of Zenith Tower stands tall, resting on a solid base!
photo credit: İeva Saudargaitė
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