nARCHITECTS’ ABC Dbayeh department store is a landmark for Beirut’s most prominent department store brand. The new department store seemingly grows up Dbayeh’s hill to the east, away from the highway. The previous 200,000 sf ABC building has been expanded to create a stunning new ensemble. Four new elegant aluminum and concrete volumes undergo horizontal and vertical shifts to respond to a variety of site and zoning constraints, provide a variety of exciting interior spaces, and break down the scale of the 450,000 sf building.
The internationally acclaimed New York City firm nARCHITECTS, responsible for the exterior, drew inspiration from the haute couture sold within and specifically from ABC’s recognizable logo transformed into a dress-like pattern enveloping the building’s four volumes. Encountered first in the westernmost volume by passersby driving along one of Beirut’s most traveled highways, its silvery façade is an LED backlit laser-cut aluminum screen, with apertures varying in size from less than an inch to roughly 1.5 feet. In addition to creating a luminous icon at night, the new façade reduces solar heat gain from western exposure. Waste from nearly three thousand aluminum cut-outs have been reused as façade elements throughout the remaining three volumes, which alternate in tone between light and dark grey and met the project’s challenging budget.
A range of features in this large new building relate to the scale of the visitor. A 217ft-long structurefree glazed display along the Dbayeh Highway provides a unique new space for dramatic art installations. Four new glazed entrances with theatre-like displays and a panoramic window at Level 3 provide glimpses to and from a new interior world. Diners on the new roof level restaurants will be treated to a back-stage view behind the perforated screen, with framed views out onto the Mediterranean Sea. nARCHITECTS’ goal in this project was, in the words of Principal-in-charge Eric Bunge, “to create a dramatic and yet cohesive ensemble, which visitors and passersby can experience differently depending on the time of day or night. We aimed to create a moment of simplicity along the increasingly animated Dbayeh highway. We wanted the building to stand out in a sea of noise with a moment of silence.”
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