Joe Kesrouani
ABC Dbayeh Department Store
Beirut, Lebanon

nARCHITECTS’ ABC Dbayeh department store is a landmark for Beirut’s most prominent department store brand.  The previous 200,000 sf ABC building has been expanded into four cohesive volumes growing up Dbayeh’s hill to the east, away from the highway.  The new 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 to break down the scale of the 450,000 sf building.

Responsible for the exterior facades and massing, nARCHITECTS drew inspiration from the haute couture sold within and ABC’s recognizable logo to create an aluminum 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 to meet the project’s challenging budget.

A range of features in this large new building relate to the scale of the visitor.  A 217ft-long structure free 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 backstage view behind the perforated screen, with framed views out onto the Mediterranean Sea.  nARCHITECTS’ goal in this project was 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.

ABC held an opening to celebrate substantial completion of the project in July 2012 with 1,000 attendees including then-Lebanese President Michel Suleiman.

ABC Dbayeh Department Store
Client : ABC SAL
Project Location : Beirut, Lebanon
Status : 2009-2012
Area : 450,000sf (250,000 sf addition + new facade for existing 200,000 sf building)
Program : Massing, facades, displays, entrances, canopies
Sustainability : New heat mitigating facade on existing building
Awards : AIA NYS Merit Award

nARCHITECTS Team : Eric Bunge, Mimi Hoang (Principals); Tiago Barros, Stephen Hagmann, Hubert Pelletier (Project Architects); Seung Teak Lee, Julia Chapman, Christopher Grabow, Ammr Vandal; Competition Phase: Alice Wong (Project Designer), Dominique Gonfard, Adam Vana
Collaborators : Architect of Record: ABC Technical Team: Lamia Jallad, Bashcir Muhanna, Johnny Salman; Structural Engineer: BRM, Beirut; Interiors: A-Consult; Landscape: ZMK; Lighting Designer: DEBBAS, Beirut
Builders: Alumco (Aluminum facade, prefabricated steel modules, glazing)

Image Credit: Joe Kesrouani