Competition for Banque Libano-Française New Headquarters

Luca Molinari develops a tailor-made critical process in order to side Banque Libano-Française (BLF) to fully organize and manage an international architecture competition to build its new headquarters in a strategic plot located at the Northern main entrance of Beirut. Facing the sea and the Port one side, and the dynamic and creative Mar Mikhael area from the other, the site will place the Bank at the heart of the economic and the artistic development of the country, as the region has become the cradle of all industrial and cultural activities.

The consulting path up to the project that best interprets BLF vision and needs includes advisorship, curatorship and design services in order to maximize the Client’s mission, the process communication and its sharing within BLF staff.

8 short-listed studios were chosen out of a first selection of 60 “Pritzker-to-be” talents progressively brought to 43 and subsequently to 24 studios mostly based in Europe.
After a rigorous evaluation and a round of meetings BIG (Denmark, U.S.), Farshid Moussavi (U.K.), Snøhetta (Norway), Piuarch (Italy), Barozzi Veiga (Spain), Nabil Gholam (Lebanon), YTAA Youssef Tohme (Lebanon) and Kengo Kuma (France and Japan) are invited to take part in Banque Libano-Française New Headquarters International Competition.

In order to get a real appreciation of the plot and the city, the participants attend a two-day workshop in Beirut. On this occasion the Project brief is handed and explained providing all needed information on the building site, the urban context, the client’s mission, history and objectives. In parallel the competition’s official website, conceived as a functional tool for both participating architects and the general public, is launched.
In April participants return to Beirut and present their 1:500/200 proposals to a technical committee and the jury composed of two members of BLF Board of Directors, Jean-Christophe Fromantin (Mayor of Neuilly sur- Seine and Vice-President of the Economy Department of Paris-Ouest-La Défense District), Prof. Hashim Sarkis (Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT) and Prof. Li Zhang (Chair of the Architecture Department at Tsinghua University and Editor-in-Chief of the Chinese magazine World Architecture).
On the same days the designer are invited to share their own reading of Beirut and of the future of architecture at Beirut Urban Lab event at Sursock Museum (18 april 2016)

The commitment and quality of the proposals prove so high that the Jury decides to stage a second phase of the competition with 3 shortlisted projects:
– “The White Tower” by Barozzi Veiga;
– “The vine” by BIG;
– “The Magic Box” by Snøhetta.
Following specific functional and formal notes supplied by the organizers to each candidate the three finalists present the updated projects on June 14th-15th. On this occasion TED-like conferences are given at the American University of Beirut in order to enjoy the presence of great designers in the city.
In July 2016 BLF announces that the winner of the competition is Snøhetta’s Magic box project for “its flexible and interconnected interior wide spaces capable of coping with the Bank’s future evolution, of stimulating synergies, enhancing productivity and innovation among its young and dynamic workforce”, but also, in the words of Raya Raphael, BLF General Manager, for “its eco-friendly approach showcased in the sustainable development and public spaces open to Mar Mikhael’s neighboring community.”

www.blfheadquarters.com