IFI – Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy & International Affairs

Category: Architecture | Location: American University of Beirut, Lebanon | Built-up Area: 7,000m2 | Project Type: Office/Academic | Built

The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut was won in competition in 2005.
The IFI site is part of the preserved area of the Middle Campus. Hence it is populated with endangered existing trees which are integrated in the completed design; especially the massive volumes of the Ficus and Cypress trees to the west and south of the site; aging between 120 and 180 years old. Another distinctive aspect of the site was the number of existing paths which cross fertilized with newly implemented ones therefore enhancing the pedestrian experience; therefore presenting the IFI building as the new social hub for students and researchers alike.

Therefore, whilst planning the challenge was how to introduce a daring structure without undermining the existing valuable characteristics such as the middle campus preserved areas and the viewing tunnels from the Green Oval towards the Middle Campus and the Mediterranean Sea to the north.
Architect’s statement: The building’s conceptual approach folds and defines a series of platforms and zones where different academic and research affiliations take place. This formal drive is set for a series of folding tension points spread on a monolithic three-dimensional landscape that blends built and landscape elements. The folding solution not only offered a reduction in the building footprint but also floated the bulk of the programmatic requirements while introducing a generous double height space, twenty one meter span cantilever. This suspended structure allows for the much needed social exchange. It also allows for students and visitors to cross and infiltrate the building through corridors that spills into the landscape park area to the west and the Green Oval to the south. The new structure folds, deforms, and adapts to this new shuffled environment emphasizing paths and flows, nevertheless containing the extrovert and transparent aspects of the programmatic requirements of this Think-Tank.

Program and Building Access: The IFI program is distributed over six floors mainly comprising of researchers and interns offices, recreational lounges, seminar rooms, a large state of the art conference room, a large reading room as well as a roof terrace. The building is accessible from four main entrances. There are two main entrances at grade level, one from the East and another one from the West; an additional Entrance leading to the second floor from the West accessible by the feature ramp. As for the Auditorium it is mainly accessible from separate external pathway.
Materials: A minimal and elegant approach to the choice of materials complements the bold structure. A palette of three main finishes namely Fair-faced Concrete, White Satin Colour, and glass. All exterior and interior shear walls are made of in-situ exposed concrete. All internal partitions are made of ink-pigmented glass to allow for some degree of privacy within the programmatic spaces. The rest of the walls are finished with a white satin colour. As for the floor finish it is all in-situ polished concrete. As for fixed furniture like for instance in the conference room, the reading room, the Auditorium gallery, and the kitchen worktops, those are finished with Matt white Corian DuPont.

SET Role: Design & Project Management*
* In Collaboration with ZHA


Within the building there is a mixture of sharp angles and curves to create contrast

Iconic Materials

This IFI is an Iconic Fairfaced Concrete finish in-situ structural shear walls, boasting a 21 meter cantilever; the first of its kind!

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