Industrial Heritage

Status: Executed
Category: Commercial / Architecture

The objective of this competition was to reinvent and reuse the existing sugar factory structure and develop a coherent and profitable project that will attract investors. 

Industrial heritage is an important part of the identity of a place. Reuse of industrial buildings has been established as a trend over the past few decades in European countries. This tendency has almost become a new phenomenon. Sugar Lane offers an opportunity to set a precedent in Lebanon through the regeneration of the stretch, combining a new layer to the existing, and opening up innovative ways for new programmatic conversions.

Integrating the notion of the”Souk”  inspired from the local culture. Although the intervention is reinvented, it reinforces the identity of the local community, and at the same time expresses an international attitude, reinforcing the relation between the local and global.

Creating a narrative by introducing follies to the industrial site, also used as architectural features that a visitor stumbles upon as he/she travels through the complex. Two follies (relics) are found in the lane: they act as sculptural elements within the open spaces reserved for public recreation and leisure. The corner of plot 116 is marked by a three dimensional deconstructed steel folly. It is painted in red and carries a number of billboards. The most pronounced folly of all is the wall of the steel structure kept in place at the entrance of the lane (in plot 306). It speaks the story of the prosperous industrial days, the abandoned days and the new life. As such, those follies create physical and emotional landmarks, acting as node-link structures to reveal important relationships in the memory network. Furthermore, they enhance the architectural experience of this complex, the history, the identity and the sense of place.

The interior of the lane derives its character from the legacy of the old Souks. It draws its inspiration from the rich diversity of layers present in the existing bays on either side of the steel arcade spanning throughout the lane. Modules are specifically designed and strategically placed to facilitate commerce, creating small storefronts making the souk very pedestrian friendly, maximizing the window area and the number of shops. The juxtapositions between the industrial aspect and the new added layer create a rich labyrinthine setup for exclusive concepts and stand-alone boutiques among flagship and other traffic generating stores.

An intricate three-dimensional network through the many levels and pockets provides vistas onto the lane and the adjacent Mediterranean.  Open spaces not only allow visitors to take advantage of the sea proximity, but also to discover several preserved built up relics (representing elements from the process of refining sugar) that have been kept in place and fully integrated into the scheme. These two follies reinforce the industrial history and the narrative of the lane.

The ground floor is accessible from the surrounding main streets, and along the sea side via a new connective tissue of glass that opens up during periods of warm weather, creating a horizontal canopy for ground level terraces, where a large open space presents itself as a perfect location for restaurants, in that its orientation faces the Mediterranean, offering a unique space for informal meetings and recreation within the lane.

Interior finishes are utilitarian, limited to concrete floors in closed areas, basalt pavers for the open pedestrian areas and cement with mineral pigmentation for wall finishes.  The hanging modules are in wood finish and could use colored paint on the inside.

The steel ceiling of the lane has been preserved and glazed to maximize the penetration of natural light into the space. The glass panels are designed to allow the possibility of partial uncovering of the ceiling when needed in order to reduce energy demands; shades could also be manipulated as needed.

The roof terrace covered by tensile canopies was designed in parallel with the building elevation as it complements its façade. The view from the terrace onto the road has been concealed to block the busy visual activity and to create a peaceful environment that overlooks the Mediterranean. An independent access from the sea side is provided to allow for a restaurant at two different levels to operate independently from the lane.

Office spaces are located on the extremities of the plot and on either end of the steel arcade, as they represent a different architectural language than the buildings of the lane. They are homogeneous in heights and present regular patterns in window openings; as such, they suggest a more conventional space management, thus converted to offices and art studios. They are accessible from the roads and do not interfere with the lane. At the ground level, the activity in the lane extends onto the office buildings and remains uninterrupted, creating a sense of continuity and cohesion throughout the plot.

The seaside elevation is characterized by a new sense of aesthetic that creates a playful interchange between the existing industrial aspect and the new urban tissue. Traces of the original character have been preserved, ensuring that they uncover at many levels different aspects of its industrial history.

-The stone wall, a very peculiar feature of the seaside façade, is kept exposed after cutting away the lower portion in order to open up the space onto the seafront. The wall will be supported by structural steel columns and beams.

-The entrance of the lane is highlighted by the wall of the steel structure that was preserved in its original position to mark the memory of its previous character and location. It will be anchored to the adjacent building and will house an elevator in the gap between the two walls. The view of the deep blue sea through the tight end of this narrow gap is worth a pause, an architectural accident that adds to the power of the folly.

The roadside elevations are partially concealed by a metal mesh that allows for a number of openings: when opened, it uncovers a colorful layer in constant change depending on the time of the day and the number of open panels. The new skin (metal mesh) also takes the environment into account, since it not only functions as an aesthetic architectural feature, but also as a climate shield, reducing  energy demands for cooling and heating of the building.