Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI)
The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI) building by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) continues the on-going implementation of the 2002 AUB Campus Master Plan by Sasaki Associates (in colaboration with Machado and Silvetti, MGT of America, and Dar Al-Handasa, Shair and Partners) to advance the university’s academic mission in the 21st Century with facilities of the highest international standards.
“The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) aims to harness the policy-related research of AUB’s internationally respected faculty in order to achieve several goals: to raise the quality of public policy-related debate and decision-making in the Arab World and abroad, to enhance the Arab World’s input into international affairs, and to enrich the quality of interaction among scholars, officials and civil society actors in the Middle East and abroad.” – Issam Fares Institute
Dame Zaha’s design significantly reduced the building’s footprint by “floating” a reading room, a conference room and research spaces above the entrance courtyard in the form of a 21-meter-long cantilever in order to preserve the existing flora and landscape.
“It was conceived as to be a very heavy, very present building on the outside, but on the inside the whole thing is transparent which reflects the idea of a think-tank; think tanks are always transparent, full of ideas and exchange,” said architect Saleem Jalil who was supervisor of the project.
- The building had to fit into another stage in the implementation of a master plan for AUB, whose upper campus overlooks the water, and whose lower campus is located on the seafront. The architect responded to the project brief by producing a design that significantly reduces the building’s footprint by “floating” a reading room, a workshop conference room and research spaces above the entrance courtyard in the form of a 21-metre-long cantilever in order to preserve the existing landscape.
- The 3,000 square metre building is defined by the routes and connections within the university; the building emerges from the geometries of intersecting routes as a series of interlocking platforms and spaces for research and discourse.
- The massing and volume distribution fits very well with the topography, and the nearby Ficus and Cyprus trees are perfectly integrated with the project. The building’s construction is a continuation of the 20th century Lebanese construction culture of working with fair-faced concrete.
The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs was found in 2006, with the goal of enhancing and broadening public policy-related debate and knowledge production in the Arab world.
AUB held an invited competition for the design of IFI’s campus home, which was won by Dame Zaha, a former student of AUB as well as the recipient of an honorary degree in 2006. She died after a short illness in March 2016, aged 65, and her loss was mourned worldwide for the huge impact she had had on late 20th and 21st century architecture.
The institute provides as space for interaction among scholars, officials and civil society actors, while disseminating knowledge that is accessible to policy-makers, media, research communities and the general public.
Its policy research areas include refugee research, international affairs, climate change and environment, social justice and development, education and youth, and many more.
Zaha Hadid Architects:
The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI) building by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) continues the on-going implementation of the 2002 AUB Campus Master Plan by Sasaki Associates (in collaboration with Machado and Silvetti, MGT of America, and Dar Al-Handasa, Shair and Partners) to advance the university’s academic mission in the 21st Century with facilities of the highest international standards.
The IFI was established as a neutral, dynamic, civil, and open space where people representing all viewpoints in society cangather and discuss significant issues, anchored in a long-standing commitment to mutual understanding and high quality research. The institute aims to harness, develop and initiate research of the Arab world to enhance and broaden debate on public policy and international relations. It currently works on several programs addressing the region’s issues including the refugee crisis, climate change, food security, and water scar city, youth, social justice and development, urbanism, and the UN in the Arab world.
Relocating the infirmary closer to the new university hospital presented AUB with the opportunity to build the institute on the constrained site with a 7 metre drop in elevation between its south and north boundaries. The existing AUB campus combines buildings constructed in concrete throughout the 20th Century in a variety of revivalist and modernist styles with different cladding and rendering treatments.
In 2006, the competition jury selected ZHA’s proposal to build the new institute. The design significantly reduces the building’s footprint by ‘floating’ much of the IFI’s facilities above the entrance courtyard to preserve the existing landscape integral to the 2002 master-plan, create a new public space for the campus, and establish links from the university’s Central Oval to the Middle Campus and Mediterranean Sea to the north.
The 3,000 sq. m. Issam Fares Institute building is defined by the many routes and connections within AUB; interweaving the pathways and views within the campus to create a forum for the exchange of ideas – a centre of interaction and dialogue – at the heart of the university.
The IFI design introduces new links between the Central Oval with the forested area of the Middle Campus and sea beyond. Existing Ficus and Cypress trees on the IFI site (aged between 120 and 180 years old) are integral to the design. The building emerges from the geometries of intersecting routes as a series of interlocking platforms and spaces for research, engagement and discourse.
The institute invites the community inside via the many connections and paths that converge at its double-height entrance courtyard. This new civic space for the university is a covered outdoor terrace and extension of the shaded area beneath the existing trees – a place for chance meetings and informal discussion – located at the nexus of pathways that traverse the site.
A ramp leads between the trees to connect the research lounges on the second floor directly with the campus, while the first floor seminar room and offices are accessed at grade from the east and public courtyard to the west. These routes meet within the IFI to describe the atrium hall; establishing the institute as a crossroads – a central hub for students, faculty, researchers and visitors.
The IFI’s reading room, conference workshops and research rooms ‘float’ above the exterior courtyard. The100-seat auditorium is on the lowest level with its own entrance to the north, enabling the institute to host larger conferences and presentations without disrupting students, fellows and researchers working throughout the building. Internal partitions are in ink-pigmented glass to enable communication and interaction.
The building takes full advantage of the region’s tradition and expertise of working with in- situ concrete. Passive design measures, high efficiency active systems and recycled water technologies minimise the building’s impact on the local and wider environment.
The IFI’s design builds upon the institute’s mission as a catalyst and connector between AUB, researchers and the global community. Routes, views and links within the campus converge to define the IFI as a three-dimensional intersection; a space for university’s students, fellows and visitors to meet, connect and engage with each other and the wider world.
Project name: Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI)
Location: American University of Beirut, Bliss Street, Beirut, Lebanon
Coordinates: 33.900012, 35.479791
Site Area: 7,000 sqm
Project Area: 7,000 sqm
- New exterior spaces: 4,000 sqm
- Total floor area: 3,000 sqm
Auditorium capacity: 100 seats
Maximum height: 22 m
Length of cantilever: 21 m
Project Year/Period: 2006 – 2014
Completion Date/Year: 2014
Visit Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs’s website: here
Client / Owner / Developer: American University of Beirut
Architects: Zaha Hadid Architects – Studio London, 10 Bowling Green Lane, London, United Kingdom
Design: Zaha Hadid with Patrik Schumacher
Local Architect: Architect Rafik El Khoury & Partners, Hazar Mansour, Roger Skaff
- Project Architect: Saleem A. Jalil
- Competition Team: Saleem A. Jalil, Rokhsana Rakhshani, Teakjin Kim, Ben Holland, Charbel Chagoury, Anas Younes, Fulvio Wirtz, Mariagrazia Lanza, Renata Dantas.
- Design Team: Saleem A.Jalil, Christos Passas, Graham Modlen, Human Talebi, Brandon Buck, Miya Ushida.
- Structural: Rafik El Khoury & Partners, Rafik El Khoury, Georges Sfeir, Maya Charry, Guy Ghosn, Roger Skaff
- Structural: [Post-Tension] Darweesh Haddad
- Mechanical Engineering: ZEF London (DD stage) Rabih. Rafik El Khoury & Partners, Issam Mourrad
- Acoustic: Rafik El Khoury & Partners, Wassim Sader
- Electrical Engineering: Rafik El Khoury & Partners, Wassim Sade
- MEP Subcontractor: CLIMTECH
- Contract Administrator: Rafik El Khoury & Partners, Roger Skaff, Zeina Bou Mikhael
- Project Coordinator: Sabine Choubassi Assem, Soubra
- Mechanical Coordinator: Georges Saade
- Contractor Shop Drawings & Construction: Kettaneh Construction, s.a.r.l.