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Business Designs

MainGate surveys the international architectural competition for the design of the future home of the Suliman S. Olayan School of Business.

As you may remember, AUB hosted an international design competition in October 2002 to select a design for the Charles W. Hostler Student Center (“The Elements of Design,” MainGate, Winter 2003). On that occasion, Vincent James Associates Architects was chosen from among the six finalists. Buoyed by the success of that experience, the University decided to launch a second design competition to choose an architectural gem to house the University’s new business school.
Of the 27 firms that responded to the initial announcement, six were invited to travel to AUB at the end of May and present their designs for the future home of the Suliman S. Olayan School of Business. The six firms included three from the United States (Charles Rose Architects, Machado and Silvetti Associates, and Vincent James Associates Architects), two European entries (Ateliers LION Architectes Urbanistes and Jeremy Dixon/Edward Jones), and one joint venture (Shigeru Ban Architects with LACECO/Bernard Khoury of Lebanon). It is interesting to note that a number of the firms that entered the first competition, but weren’t chosen, were eager to participate a second time. Ateliers LION and LACECO/Bernard Khoury, both finalists this time, were also among the finalists in October 2002. And Shigeru Ban, who had been a member of the selection jury for the student center project, teamed up this year with LACECO/Bernard Khoury to submit a design.

The seven-member jury for this competition included representatives from AUB (President John Waterbury and Professor Howayda Al-Harithy) and prominent architects and urban planners from Lebanon, Europe, Asia, and the United States. The other five jurists were: Professor Max Fordham (Max Fordham LLP, London, United Kingdom), Simone Kosremelli, architect and urban planner (Beirut, Lebanon), Mr. Jimmy C.S. Lim, (CSL Associates, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), Professor Hashim Sarkis (Harvard University), and Mr. Wilfried Wang (University of Texas at Austin and architect, Berlin, Germany).
In evaluating the design submissions, the jury was guided by six criteria: responsiveness to the site and urban conditions/context; the new image of AUB from the Corniche; architectural distinction with respect to interior and exterior spaces; responsiveness to the program of the new Suliman S. Olayan School of Business; responsiveness to environmental concerns; and feasibility with respect to construction, cost, and operations.
Although the academic program requirements of the business school imposed a certain limitation on the range of options that the firms could present, they nonetheless did offer contrasting architectural design concepts. For example, Ateliers LION, which titled its presentation “A Building in a Garden,” envisioned the school as three aluminum-sheathed structures enclosing a patio filled with lush vegetation. Each of the buildings would provide separate facilities for the school’s three divisions—its undergraduate business program, its MBA program, and its administrative offices.
The joint design of Shigeru Ban and LACECO/Bernard Khoury evoked the feel of an atrium. It included a good amount of greenery, broken up by many small staircases that led to a number of small buildings. Jeremy Dixon/Edward Jones, on the other hand, presented a design that projected the image of a more unified structure. The single building, which was four stories high and afforded a marvelous view of the sea, was fronted by a central courtyard and surrounding terraces.

The Charles Rose entry consisted of two distinct buildings linked by a second-floor bridge. The facades of the buildings were designed to be transparent along the Corniche side so that they would, in the words of the architect, “stand out as large lanterns at night.” Vincent James Associates, which last year had submitted the winning design for the Hostler Student Center, envisioned the business school as three separate structures organized around a landscaped plaza and linked by a bridge. A special feature of the design was a rooftop terrace situated above the bridge—which one could imagine becoming a popular common area for the school’s students and faculty.
In the end, after studied deliberation, the jury chose Machado and Silvetti Associates as the winner—a firm that is decidedly familiar with the AUB campus through its collaboration with Sasaki Associates in the development of the University’s Campus Master Plan. Their architectural concept for the new School of Business is based on one L-shaped four-story building enclosing four architectural elements that are traversed by paths grouped around a triangular open courtyard. The large green space will provide for the development of a new “Campus Oval” extending from the school to the Durrafourd West building on the Corniche that AUB acquired a few years ago.
Many of the people involved in the competition process strongly felt that the design for the new business school should be architecturally impressive and at the same time be in harmony with the unusual character of the campus and the diversity of AUB’s students. George Najjar, dean of the Suliman S. Olayan School of Business, echoed this thought by noting, “The winning design provides a distinct identity for the new school, but at the same time it blends in with and shares in the life of the wider campus.”