Sitting in the heart of downtown Beirut, Harbour Square provides a calm space which acts as a respite to the surrounding urban district.
Gustafson Porter + Bowman’s concept conceives the square as a reinterpretation of a harbour, providing shelter to users from the surrounding urban districts in the same way that the historic local harbour’s were a safe port for traders’ boats. While water and paving establish this metaphor, the spatial organisation of the space builds on this idea throughout ‒ from the broad, sweeping design gestures to the more detailed treatment of the materials themselves.
The old harbour wall is repositioned within the new square and is treated as a sculpture, providing focus and a source of memory. The wall is partly surrounded by water to resonate with its original function. Interpretations are provided to explain the origins of the wall, and thus provide information about Beirut history to visitors. The wall takes the form of a harbour wall and supports a large canopy which appear to ‘float’ over the water, recalling the mooring of boats, while the materials used throughout the scheme have varied patterns, textures and colours which reflect the history of artisan crafts and traded goods in Beirut.
The canopy design is based on a three-dimensional reinterpretation of an Arabian pattern, and is formed from vertical and inclined steel plates. The canopy provides decorative shadows over the square and creates an identity for the leisure spaces and café underneath. Trees line and enclose the square in a wall of green to soften the approach into the Square.