The Issam Fares Institute (IFI) for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut serves students and academics while also providing a powerful nexus for local, regional and international researchers, thinkers and policy makers.
Our designs for the IFI both reflect and facilitate its ambitious and important intellectual program – accommodating existing landscape conditions to achieve functional harmony. The new structure emerges fluidly from the geometry of a surrounding network of public paths, rather than imposing itself on the landscape as an isolated, dominating object.
Its form flows upwards in an undulating extension, creating many different dynamic spaces before vanishing back into its surrounding terrain, overcoming the limitations inherent in its location to provide a building that is both open and spacious – two qualities seldom achieved within the confines of a site as limited and prescriptive as this one.
The IFI is accessible via two main public entrances: the west, which gently ramps up to the second floor from ground level, to reach the directors office, administration and researcher lounges; the east, which leads to conference, workshop, break out rooms and lounges on the first floor. Third and fourth floors contain offices and seminar rooms, with the fifth floor devoted entirely to a reading room. Above these ‘working’ spaces, a roof terrace provides respite and views across the surrounding city.
The Auditorium and its related amenities are located underground creating a comfortable and quiet academic space.
East and west entrances, partly interwoven, are strategically situated at the nexus of several primary circulation paths, one leading directly from the east, the other gently cutting through the main atrium hall to the west and consequently blurring the line between building and landscape.
On the western side of the site, sloping ramp and stairs provide new outdoor spaces for AUB students to relax.