A new banking headquarters in Lebanon is set to be both visually striking and community-focused. In addition, the misshapen chequered façade of the Banque Libano Francaise (BLF) building will actually help to keep the temperature inside comfortable.
A competition to design the building was launched in January and involved an initial 35 participants. The winning design is that of Norwegian-American studio Snøhetta, and was picked from a final shortlist of three that also included submissions from Barozzi Veiga and BIG. It is the studio's first-ever commission in Lebanon and will be located at the northern main entrance of the country's capital, Beirut.
BLF says Snøhetta's design, dubbed the "Magic Box," fitted with its desire for a space "not to work more, but to work better." Through the competition, it also sought a solution that would "integrate public spaces within the building without compromising its security" and take "into account the digital evolution and new collaborative methods at work."
For its part, Snøhetta says it has sought to achieve economic, social and environmental sustainability with its design. By this it means that the project must be economically viable, must give back to the city and complement the existing urban context, and must respond to the environment both in regard to energy consumed and with regard to the embodied energy of the structure.
The Magic Box will feature a chequered veneer made of limestone, which will vary in depth around the building, with the aim of keeping the building cool during the day and warm at night. Facing south, the limestone will be thick and the windows recessed, helping to shade them from the sun and to protect the interior from the heat of the direct sunlight.
Facing north, there will be less direct sunlight, so the limestone will be shallower and the windows less recessed, allowing in plenty of indirect natural light and to making the most of the ocean views. On the east- and west-facing sides of the building, the façade will be graded between the north and south limestone depths, producing a moiré pattern effect. The building will require no additional shading beyond that provided by the façade, keeping it aesthetically clean.
Its terraces, together, will provide 360-degree views of the surrounding areas and will also help to ventilate the interior spaces. The interior design has multiple connections with the outside, and there will be flexible and interconnected interior spaces that will be adaptable to cater for the Bank's future evolution.
A clear distinction has been made distinction between the public and private domains of the building. The public space on the ground floor has been designed to have a "high degree of permeability" with the street, so as to help ensure good connectivity across the site and the wider neighborhood.
The private, administrative spaces are built into the upper portion of the building. In addition to creating enough workspaces, Snøhetta has sought to create a community-focused environment. The workspaces are focused around the exterior terraces, which it is hoped will become social hubs for those working in the building.
There's no word yet on when we can expect construction to begin or to be completed.