Creating a Regional UN House in Lebanon-Samer Hayek's Graduation Project at USEK, 2011

Type: Institutional
Architect: Samer Hayek

“Lebanon… One small nation that’s keeping the whole world busy” (Ronald Reagan)

Indeed, this small country has forever been famous for its diplomatic ties. Before the nation, this community was built over international diplomatic ties and foreign activity. This activity was induced by several influencing factors from trade to religion, but most importantly its geographic location on the Mediterranean as a transition between Europe and the Middle East.
In brief today’s foreign activity is mainly symbolized by the united nations, which is an organization founded in order to maintain political peace after WWII but soon thanks to Lebanon's greatest contribution to the organization ( the declaration of the human rights) this political organization acquired its Humane face and started tackle all activities related to human life.
The Theme
However, this organization, Lebanon turns a lot to, is becoming paralyzed in this country due to many simple but important logistic problems (lack of space, various departments scattered throughout the capital without a unified headquarters, lack of security in the present location).
This matter lead Ban ki moon the secretary general of the UN to send a letter to PM Sanyoura at the time requesting a site in order to build a new UN house for Lebanon and the region.
For that the organisations have presented a detailed project brief of what they need in this new HQ and a decree was released from the cabinet to allow the construction of such a building
3 key elements are to represent the project (Decentralization, Security, and Landmark)
Choice of Site
The site chosen for this project by the cabinet was on the marina Dbaye mainly since the land doesn’t need to be appropriated. This site shows a lot of potential especially on the security level but after a study I found the site to be inadequate for several reasons , The site I proposed instead is in harmony with the role philosophy of the UN it is on the mouth of the Kaleb river.
Nahrel Kaleb was long considered the geographic gateway not just for Beirut but to the whole region due to its harsh and unconquerable topography. Nowadays in the age of globalization the gate to any foreign and international activity is without any rival, the United Nations. This site is the history book of the region imprinted in steles carvings and architecture that marks every era and epoch. And now is undoubtedly the era of the global communication.
There isn’t a certain typology or architectural style proper to the UN since it is independent from any land or region, so the architecture should be inspired from the work of the organization and should reflect the philosophy of the UN.
Another influencing factor in this project is the security element. A public building in Europe for instance would be open due to the safety and security in these countries. However in Lebanon, a public building is usually barricaded and fenced, thus losing its “Public” nature. The aim of this project is to create a safe and secure headquarters while maintaining the “landmark” quality this important public building should have, thus reflecting its function.
The UN targets 3 main elements and deals with them: MAN, NATION, and ENVIRONMENT. It treats the relations between one another and one’s self (man/man, man/nation, etc)
•             The House: house of the United Nations should be a message holder the UN does not belong to a specific place it has no clear architectural identity so the architecture should clearly reflect the ideals and principals of this organization
•             The light house: the UN acts as we have seen before as a guide, an organization that SHEADS the LIGHT on modern problems and suggests solutions…
•             The house of Light: the lighthouse however acts only through its light room placed on top… the UN, however, has a whole body that is active has and in constant work… this body makes the organization not only a light house but a whole house of light. 
•             The prism of light: the philosophy of the UN is so complex and noble the most expressive symbol that merely symbolizes the philosophy of this organization is the prism… a body so transparent so clear that lets the light pass through and bends it to make it more concrete more tangible… just like the UN has calls for the light for the greater good and tries hard to turn those ideals into a reality The 3 sides symbolize the 3 elements the organization works on man, community, environment.
•             Levitation: the object holding the working body of the UN has to levitate symbolizing the detachment from any nation country or identity. The organization is universal: One for all.
•             Torsion: the object goes through torsion symbolizing the dynamic movement of the organization that defies established laws boundaries and commonly acknowledged norms. Always pointing towards the infinity the tomorrow, the better being towards the IDEAL word
•             Impact point: the United Nations is not only an ideal organization calling for the impossible and non-realistic causes. It has its feet on the ground working to project its ideals into the reality of our existence. In order to create a better world
The Program
The project is divided into two zones that function individually and can be merged if needed: The public zone which includes a congress hall, a theatre, a library, a printing facility, a museum, and the UN Park. The private zone including the office spaces in the tour and their amenities underneath the platform.
In conclusion, the project simply freezes the moment where the ideal comes in touch with the reality, the moment where the light glazes through darkness, the fraction when change begins to happen.
The office tour where the true work of the UN happens takes the shape of a prism that is protected from the elements yet radiant and clear. Upon touching the ground the building sets away rays of light that symbolize the concrete work of the United Nations
This is the true ideology of the United Nations, it’s not about politics, not about world dominance or other bold titles the UN is all about creating the opportunity for the ideal to step down to change reality, and the real rising to meet the ideal.

For more information

Tel +961 (0)1 426 032 Fax +961 (0)1 426 032

Post Your Comment

* Required Fields.
** Required, but will not be published.


  1. paty

    Wow i love this!Such a good job!

  2. DR.Z

    "its not just freeze the moments", but also it froze the brains...
    its a verry deep reminds me by the titanic movie..

  3. Randa Tarabay


  4. Dr.H

    WOW! This is a congenial project!!! I donít know why, I saw it as a revisiting, i a triangular way, of Calatrava equilibrium poetic!