Art gallery and shopping centre presented typological challenge

The first images of David Adjaye’s Beirut art gallery and shopping centre have been released.

The Aishti Foundation building is nearing completion on a brownfield coastal site in the Lebanese capital, with just the roof and some interior details still to be finished.

The 17,600sq m complex sites on a large plot previously occupied by a number of warehouses but part of which has been reclaimed from the sea.

Adjaye Associates was also responsible for designing a new seaside promenade with a created undulating landscape – an urban placemaking element which the practice described as “very exciting” and which is intended to signpost the site as a visitor attraction.

The building itself combines cultural and retail uses which required separate entrances and treatments but the flexibility to be linked.

In a statement the practice said: “The juxtaposition of art and shopping presented the practice with the challenge to create a design for an entirely new typology that would integrate two, often conflicting, worlds.

“The concept, therefore, has been to establish a lively architectural dialogue via a celebration of views into the different spaces as well as a homogenising tiled design that presents a continuous language throughout the building’s floor, facade and roof.”

The building’s form is a simple block rotated on one edge to appear tilted. The windowless retail floors are on one side, arranged around an atrium, while the side containing the galleries is defined by a large single window. A top-floor bar has views over the city and the sea.

The facade is layered so the building’s glazed box sits within a louvred frame which creates passive shading.

“Laterally supported, it floats around the building, with a void existing between the two layers. The geometric ‘thunderbolt’ pattern of the ceramic louvres – or ‘baguettes’ – reappears in the landscaping across the entire site, as well as on the interior tiling, and becomes a defining motif,” said the architect.