Banque Libano-Française (BLF) launched an international architecture competition to build its new headquarters in a strategic plot located at the Northern main entrance of Beirut. Facing the sea and the Port from one side and the dynamic and creative Mar Mikhael area from the other, the site will place the Bank at the heart of the economic and the artistic development of the country, as the region has become the cradle of all industrial and cultural activities.
Our Bank witnessed a very important growth during the last 12 years, multiplying its balance sheet by 4 and its workforce by 2, and we are committed to keep on growing despite the very challenging environment“, stated BLF General Manager, Raya Raphaël Nahas. “We need a new workplace to accompany our development and showcase our vision for the future in line with our history and the legacy of our founder. We want an environment that reflects our values, serves our clients in the best way, welcomes the public, and becomes a ‘second home’ that constantly triggers productivity, interaction, innovation, and an enhanced quality of work among our employees. We believe architecture can shape the behavior and create great experiences to the BLF community and its surroundings.
To build its headquarters, BLF embarked on an exceptional and passionate venture. Together with Italian Architect and Curator Luca Molinari, it started in 2015 to search for candidates to take part in an International Architecture Competition. “We were looking for an outstanding architect capable of understanding, internalizing and interpreting the Bank’s values, traditions and ambitions, and of suggesting a visionary catalyst in harmony with the contrasted urban and social context of Beirut“, explained Molinari. “We chose 35 well-known local and international architects and emerging talents, and we travelled from a city to another to meet each one in their own office prior to short-listing 8 contestants: Danish-American BIG, Spanish Barozzi Veiga, British Farshid Moussavi, Japanese Kengo Kuma, Italian Piuarch, Norwegian-American Snøhetta, as well as Lebanese Nabil Gholam and Youssef Tohme“.
The image of the Bank as a separate body from the city life must be reconsidered”, added Raya Raphaël Nahas. “Our new headquarters aims to be a powerful urban actor and to improve the area and make the difference in the contemporary city condition. It will have a coherent ecological approach and be green-labeled. The building should also dialogue with Mar Mikhael and Beirut through welcoming community spaces and several connections with its neighborhoods.
The finalist architects were invited to a three-day introductory workshop in Beirut from January 21 to 23, 2016, to get to know the Bank, its identity and its needs, as well as the city, the people, and the site of the project. They will return in April to showcase their works in front of a jury involving members of BLF Board of Directors and several well-known personalities. They will also share their own reading of Beirut through public exhibitions, conferences and events that BLF will organise in order to offer the Lebanese people the chance to benefit from the presence of such rising-stars in town.
The winner of BLF International Architecture Competition will be announced in the second half of April 2016.