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Beirut Museum of Art Taps Second Architect to Design New Building

The Beirut Museum of Art (BeMA) announced that Lebanese architect Amale Andraos, the dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation and the cofounder of the New York–based firm WORKac, has been selected to design its new building, which is slated to open in 2023.

Andraos is the second architect to be hired for the job. Her appointment comes two years after Hala Wardé was chosen to lead the project after winning a global juried architecture competition. Wardé and her firm HW Architecture’s design for the institution featured a four-hundred-foot-high central campanile tower that would have housed workshops, performances, and artists-in-residence. She was unceremoniously dismissed by the museum in September. In a statement, BeMA said that Wardé was ousted over “differences that became irreconcilable.”

The new vision for the roughly 130,000-square-foot museum features seventy balconies arrayed as a vertical six-story promenade that wraps around the building’s façade. The design imagines an “open museum” that connects visitors to the institution to the surrounding city. Situated on a plot of land owned by the Université Saint-Joseph, BeMA will also boast of a black-box performance space, a terrace and a restaurant on the rooftop, a library, and spaces for public programming. In addition, the eco-friendly project will incorporate a natural ventilation system, solar shading on the museum’s exterior, and a rainwater collection and usage system.

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“The Beirut Museum of Art is committed to showcasing and supporting Lebanese artists, architects and creatives—and we are delighted to have an architect of Amale Andraos’s caliber design our new building,” Joe Saddi, executive president of BeMA’s board of trustees, said in a statement. “This appointment is an essential step to keep this significant cultural project on track and we see it as a vote of confidence in the larger cultural mission of Lebanon.” 

Other projects by Andraos and WORKac, which she founded with her husband, Dan Wood, in 2003, include the Edible Schoolyard at P.S. 216 in Brooklyn, the Kew Gardens Hills Library in Queens, the Stealth Building in New York, and the Miami Collage Garage. For BeMA, the city of Beirut served as the main inspiration behind Andraos’s design. The museum prompted the architect to “[re-examine] the legacy of the ‘Arab City’ as an intellectual, artistic and progressive project.”

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