Adrian Lahoud


source: Adrian Lahoud

This project addresses the problem of co-existence between different city forms; specifically small-scaled, fine-grained building fabric and towers.

In many cities in the Middle East, with little or no provision for heritage protection, the potential for co-existence between the traditional city core and new development does not exist. A tabula-rasa approach to the context is typical. In order to actualize the real estate potential of centrally located sites, they are stripped bare and prepared for generic forms of high-density development.

In the place of the traditional urban core, a generic application of towers on podiums replaces the fine grain fabric that once existed. On the other hand, in the mere retention of these traditional sites and their conversion to photo props made for the consumption of tourists we face another problem; the reproduction of history as a commodity.

If both possibilities are equally problematic, how do we begin to acknowledge the need for urban transformation and yet retain the potential of co-existing –though different, regimes of city form? Simply reducing the footprint of a tower has little purchase in this context because of the reduction in floor area that comes with it.

This project explores the possibility of a flexible triple support structure that transforms to accommodate the myriad of small, variable site conditions that are characteristic of fine-grained sites in older cities. By conceiving of the collective structure according to a bundle of three smaller towers that are joined in the middle, structural stability can be married to high density in a low scale existing context.

By joining the towers at the middle, two significant changes are introduced, firstly, the public podium level occurs at the mid-rise of the tower, while the ground condition – now shaded by the volume above can take on a more active public character.

The project is designed as the collection of a series of semi-autonomous scalar problems. Each problem registers in the building in different ways. The idea is to develop a generic and repeatable strategy at each register.

The location of the structural stems of the three towers can shift according to the requirements of the site; either to align to smaller existing plots at the ground level or else to minimize excessive over-shadowing of the context by deforming above the mid-level. In turn, the envelope can thicken and narrow within a certain bandwidth in order to adapt the floor plan at each level to variable conditions. For example, two out of the three base points might allow for more a generous volume owing to the size of the respective plots. The façade system is based on a pleated surface that can narrow and expand its apertures in order to control solar penetration to the interior. The mid-level podium is structured by trefoil geometry driven by the geometry of the center point between the stems.

The poche`, voids and interstitial spaces between these systems allow for a strategic autonomy to emerge. By selectively delaminating the part-part relation, the functionality of each part becomes less dependent on that of its neighbors. Because each scale poses a distinct problem to the building (support, volume, solar penetration, floor area), the separation of each system frees the parts to express different functionalities based on the problem being posed to them. In this way, the diagrammatic complexity of the situation can decomposed into a series of generic strategies defined by the presence or absence of relationality between scales.

Architect: Adrian Lahoud.
Assistants: Alina McConnochie, Sally Hsu, Regan Ching, Erik Escalante

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