The neighborhood of Ain-el-Remmaneh presents a challenging backdrop; the already dense, low-income urban context is a patchwork of elements that result in a chaotic and visually crowded setting. The apartments in the residential building commissioned should be affordable, yet provide an edge over the other developments cropping up in the area.
The buildings currently offered in that segment of the market are no fuss, no frills. Typically, they are eight or so floors of clearly laid out small apartments with minimal amenities. Since little is provided for, tenants take it upon themselves to meet their own needs. Thus, in spite of looking rather decent once completed, the buildings suffer terribly upon acquisition.
Photo collage of elements that will be spoken of in the next paragraph.
Tenants cut holes into walls to install AC units or provide exits for kitchen exhausts. They glaze most of the balconies to gain additional space. They run wires in front of windows and balconies to hang their laundry. Names and flat numbers are spray painted unto walls or floors to mark parking spots. Intermittent electricity supply requires generators that are rarely provided for and the inhabitants curse often and loudly at the thought of climbing multiple stories of stairs when they’ve forgotten their phones, wallets or other urgently needed possession in their apartments. Oppressed by the over-saturation of concrete, small shrubs or culinary herbs are planted in emptied metal milk cans and lined up on windowsills. The buildings themselves are poorly maintained and the blame game is played without end to escape payment for repairs due to leakages and other damages.
Permit Drawings Prior to BMA's intervention
Turning a blind eye to the above mentioned issues would result in yet another building design that would be gradually altered over the course of its lifetime in an uncontrolled, often careless and haphazard manner. Thus, all these numerous nuisances were addressed in the design phase, given a positive spin and turned into assets
Floor plan according to BMA's intervention
General perpsective of the project
Window placement is determined by light and they are shifted around so as to provide ample daylight for all apartments. Not only is this more efficient for the inhabitants, but the overall result reflects the urban surroundings, better integrating the project with the unruly neighbors.
AC condensers will be hosted by specially designed metal cages, labeled according to floor served and mounted in proximity to windows, yet on the dark colored portion of the wall. This will ensure uniformity of look and a control of visual impact and color.
Drainage pipes will be exposed on the exterior of the building allowing for easy identification of leaks and their source. Pipes will connect the mechanical units in a branching pattern that will add to the graphic nature of the project.
Parking spots will be labeled in the same system as AC units, not only to help avoid petty arguments, but create a wholeness of character.
Discarded oil barrels will be recycled to hold small local flora. Evenly distributed on the front and located in proximity of openings, they will provide a splash of green and animate the façade.
Laundry wires connected to pulleys will be provided in a position accessible from all the kitchen windows, thus controlling their look and distribution.
Finally, each apartment will be equipped with a retractable arm coupled with a fishing reel to carry a specially woven bamboo basket. This will allow the user to lower an item to a forgetful resident during one of the all too frequent power outages or collect groceries and other deliveries from the local corner shop as was and occasionally still is the custom in Beirut neighborhoods.
Architect: Bernard Mallat
Collaborators: Walid Zeidan
Project team: Edgard Miksas, Louis El Khoury, Tamer Musharbesh
Status: under construction