Beirut City

Extending Beirut: Imperfect Difference & Incomplete Repetition

Project by Alina McConnochie & Erik Escalante; Post Traumatic Urbanism Studio, UTS M.Arch Program


French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2008 proposal for a Mediterranean Union connected with a high-speed rail link prompted our speculative urban project for Beirut – Extending Beirut: Imperfect Difference & Incomplete Repetition.


Beirut Central District; Dubai Renaissance OMA

Existing distribution of infrastructure across Mediterranean Union; Proposed high speed rail loop and potential new infrastructure


The scheme recognises the pitfalls of recent major development in the Middle East: The repetition of traditional fabric results in a model which is homogeneous and inflexible (exemplified by the redeveloped Beirut Central District), while the extreme individuality of high rise towers in Dubai results in no difference at all.


The research question became:  How can we leverage off the transformations wrought by high speed rail infrastructure to provide alternative models of large scale urban redevelopment that are spatially diversified, heterogeneous and yet still cohesive?

With this ambition, we developed a system of differentiated neighborhoods, where mini-towers types group and nest in clusters.  The clusters of larger types clearly group around the different transport nodes forming shaded public interiors at the ground level. Also visible are the distinct typological families that nest around each of the transport nodes.

Site, Ariel View

The high-density  building fabric extends out from the existing city edge where it intersects with a modulated surface which deforms to accommodate the infrastructure network’s requirements.

Edge condition – built fabric extends over transport infrastructure.

Angled towers which lean together in groups were deployed around the train station. Their connections allowed for shared structural systems, shared sky lobbies and a spatially diverse internal break up to suit multiple and varying tenancies.

The urban interior of the high speed rail station is shaped by the envelopes of the towers that enclose the platform.  Manipulation of the climate in the public sphere was used to drive the building envelope from the outside in.  The tower clusters establish a collective climatological infrastructure, moving away from the typical response of individual building insulation.

Extending Beirut: Imperfect Difference & Incomplete Repetition is a project by Alina McConnochie and Erik Escalante and has been published in Architectural Design: Post-Traumatic Urbanism, Architectural Review Australia: Social Space, Mas Context: University Works and has been exhibited in ‘Design NOW 2010’ at Object Gallery Surry Hills and “INDEX” Exhibition at UTS

Project Details


Team | Alina McConnochie, Erik Escalante

Status | Completed October 2009

Context | Post Traumatic Urbanism Studio, UTS M.Arch

Instructors | Adrian Lahoud, Sam Spurr

Media | Digital Prints, Digital Fabrication Model [ply, aluminum, clear acrylic], 3d printed model, Handmade models

Software | Rhino, Grasshopper, AutoCad, Adobe, 3ds Max