Mar Mikhaël’s urban characteristics have evolved with time; adapting organically to the continuous changes in narratives and reestablishing the city’s paths and edges according to the needs of the district. Mar Mikhaël has become one of the most active parts of the city of Beirut with a bustle of activities in both day and night, and an overlap of many individual images creating the perceived portrait of Mar Mikhaël. The plasticity of the area is a reaction to the habits of its occupants, indicating an open-ended potential, while the spatial dominance of the main Armenia Street with narrow side streets sets hierarchy and clarity of orientation.
Banque Libano-Française’s vision to contribute to Mar Mikhaël’s current urban, social and economic setting, establishes its headquarters as an extension of the street life.
The first few levels incorporate the programs that are open to the public, drawing people inwards and upwards as far as the 5th floor.
This porous mass allows a continuity in visual connectivity, reflecting the district’s urban voids. It embodies a perpendicular reinterpretation of the patterns of the urban fabric, with clustered organization along the vertical structure.
Urban windows open from side to side, drawing in and establishing a strong link between the contemporary vertical and the layers, an existing fabric of Mar Mikhaël, bringing the memory of the city into the project. First life, then space, then buildings.
The ground floor level is dedicated entirely to the urban user; the Bank’s branch and the headquarters lobby occupy the indoor spaces while the plaza is open to the public. The plaza extends up through a path, activated by an open café, culminating in an auditorium, complementing and reinforcing the cultural scene of the neighborhood.
Generous urban openings on the south side of the plot create a natural extension of the inner Mar Mikhaël neighborhood. The ground level is transformed into a plaza, open to the public, marking one of the neighborhood’s edges, keeping the vehicular traffic scheme to the North of the site, away from the plaza.
Putting aside the debate of vertical densities and urban sprawl in the city, the reality is that the building is an integral part of the vertical evolution of the fabric and a skyline of both Mar Mikhaël and the broader city-scape.
Despite the vertical scale, there is a strong focus on the local level. The claim for continuity by the modern city also relishes in the individual character, its specialization, and diversity which are reflected in the subtle sculptural landmark of Banque Libano-Française.