Lebanon, one of the smallest countries in The Middle East, is home to numerous architectural structures. This diversity and rich architectural presence made Lebanon an open book from the beginning of humankind and civilizations. This diversity could be perceived and experienced while crossing the country from north to south. On a micro level, Beirut – the capital and largest city in Lebanon, is a solid ground for cultural enrichment expressed by structures that date back to ancient civilizations to reach contemporary structures like “Beirut Terraces”.

After its completion in 2016, “Beirut Terraces” designed by Herzog & de Meuron, added to the city a landmark, a new approach to vertical construction, and a structure that reflects the culture and history of the Lebanese Capital. The 119 m tall building is designed to be part of the wide masterplan to regenerate the area around St. George’s Hotel after the car bomb in 2005, and to express a unique irregularity created by the stacking of irregularly sized floor slabs (B1M, 2018). What made this skyscraper unique besides its design philosophy and massing, is its materials palette and construction leading to delicate passive strategies addressing sustainable practices. 

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Beirut Terraces_©Robert Rissé

The Design Philosophy Behind “Beirut Terraces” 

Beirut City, according to Herzog & de Meuron, “is shaped by the remains of Phoenicians, Romans, Mamluk, Ottoman, and Colonial rules. These remains have created rich and diversified city layers from which the design is inspired”. The design and its philosophy led “Beirut Terraces” to be expressed in two interrelated mediums: integration in the city fabric that expresses irregularity, and modularity serving the project program.

First, with a direct plan to regenerate the area after the car bomb in 2005, “Beirut Terrace” smoothly lifted the boulevard to reach the building top – a vertical boulevard is now seen in St. George’s area.

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Beirut Terraces_©Bahaa Ghoussainy

White-rendered slabs and exposed structures merge the skyscraper with its entourage, and the systematic irregularity of Beirut Terraces gives a unique cognitive mapping for users, citizens, and passing-by individuals.

Second, the iterations between slabs all over the 119 meters, is a modular repetition of 5 slabs – modules. The dynamic-shaped “Beirut Terraces” is divided into several functions. This unique building consists of single-floor apartments, duplexes, main lobbies, shared terraces with a pool and spa, and many retail stores on the ground floor (B1M, 2018). The skyscraper planning shows periodic iteration between inside and outside on all floors – following the conceptual approach, Beirut Terraces offers its users multidirectional views framed with roofs, terraces, and greenery.

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Horizontal Program Distribution_©Coastal Commons
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Vertical Program Distribution_©Coastal Commons

Materials and Construction of “Beirut Terraces”

The skyscraper has a unique rendering palette blending internal spaces with terraces and balconies. The materialistic dissection of Beirut Terraces reveals two sub-palettes: Interior and exterior palettes, blurred by double-sided glass facades. 

The exterior render of the building consists of dominant white paint, glass rails, white tiling, and green spots. This simplicity and coherence are extended to internal spaces in a delicate match-making process: Interior finishing is dominated by white painted walls, white semi-reflective tiling, and some modest greenish wood floorings and curtains. This palette plays a major role in night perceptions: The nocturne spirit is a lens-like effect due to the dominant glazed facades and reflective white paint.

To achieve such a dual experience between day and night, the construction strategy and structural system were selected and agreed on exactly.

H&dM mentioned, “The structure of Beirut Terraces consists of a central core spanning vertically through the building in addition to a regular concrete grid spanning up to 14.7m”.

This structural system is freeing the internal spaces benefiting from no structural walls. Ensuring wide spans going up to 14.7 meters was fair enough to be realized: Less concrete walls mean a higher ability to integrate big glazed facades and huge spans amplify the use of thick slabs, lately translated to dynamic white painted floorings.

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Materiality_©Iwan Baan
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Beirut Terraces_©Bahaa Ghoussainy

Does “Beirut Terraces” Hold Passive Design Strategies?

The design process of Beirut Terraces focused on addressing sustainable practices in slabs, glazed facades, colors, and ins and outs. According to Herzog & de Meuron, “Using thick slabs reduces the gained heat during day time”.

In addition, the cantilevered part over terraces is used as a shading device: Maximizing the protection area from sun rays ensures the expressive use of glazing facades. By this, all floors will be naturally lit during the day without needing electricity.

One feature that characterized the overall light and shadow alternation is the presence of small voids in all slabs. These perforations let the sun rays slightly be introduced to internal spaces without affecting thermal comfort. White color plays a major role in the sustainable achievement of “Beirut Terraces”.

Light-colored surfaces reflect light more than dark colors, meaning that white reflects sun rays and reduces heat gain. 

Last but not least, Beirut Terraces is not only continuing the green boulevard on the ground level to make it a vertical boulevard. Greenery on all levels plays a major sustainable role (H&dM). When acting like a shadow device in some spots, and an air purifier in others, this simple and modest greenery is a tool for passive design strategies focusing on heat reduction and providing better thermal comfort for users.

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Beirut Terraces_©Bahaa Goussainy


H&dM. 347 Beirut Terraces. [Online]. Available at: https://www.herzogdemeuron.com/projects/347-beirut-terraces/  [Accessed 09 April 2024].

B1M (2018). Beirut’s Multi-layered Skyscraper. [YouTube Video]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUqhKSEV6VA [Accessed 09 April 2024].

List of Images 

1_Rissé, R. Beirut Terraces. [Photograph].

2_Ghoussainy, B. (2018). Beirut Terraces. [ Photograph].

3_ Coastal Commons (2019). Horizontal Program Distribution. [Diagram].

4_ Coastal Commons (2019). Vertical Program Distribution. [Diagram].

5_Baan, I. (2019). Materiality. [Photograph].

6_Ghoussainy, B. (2018). Beirut Terraces. [ Photograph].

7_Ghoussainy, B. (2018). Beirut Terraces. [ Photograph].


Born and studied Architecture in Lebanon, Mahfoud is using Architecture and Design as a tool to solve social problems in the Lebanese rural areas. He was awarded by The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as Innovator of The Year 2023 for his socio-architectural and sustainable project called ARTICKLE.