• Overview
  • The Brief
  • The Process
  • Jury
  • Submissions
  • Winning Entry
  • Press
In October 2015, the Association for the Promotion and Exhibition of the Arts in Lebanon (APEAL) launched an architectural competition for the planning and design of a new Modern and Contemporary art museum in Beirut, the Beirut Museum of Art (BeMA).

The museum is to serve as the anchor along Beirut's new 'Museum Mile', the location of the National Museum and Museum of Lebanese Prehistory, the Mineral Museum (MiM), Beit Beirut (House of Beirut) and the Beirut City History Museum. Though being built on a site owned by the city’s Université Saint Joseph, the museum will be private and independent.

Architecture Competition and Building Design

After a year-long competition that began in October 2015, the winning design has been selected by an international jury.
  • Chaired by Lord Peter Palumbo, Chairman of The Pritzker Prize for Architecture, the jury included curators Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Dame Julia Peyton-Jones; architects George Arbid, Farès el-Dahdah, Dr. Rodolphe El-Khoury, Rem Koolhaas and Lord Richard Rogers; artist Lamia Joreige and APEAL President, Henrietta Nammour. The late Zaha Hadid, who was active on the jury until she passed away in 2015, remains an honorary member.
  • The firm HW Architecture, led by Lebanese/French architect Hala Wardé, was selected from a shortlist of 13 entries.
  • Hala Wardé has worked for over 26 years with Jean Nouvel and is currently leading the Louvre Abu Dhabi project, which she has been overseeing since 2006.
  • The winning design features a central campanile that will rise nearly 120 meters above the museum to act as a cultural beacon for the city. The campanile will include space for workshops and performances, as well as artist's residences with expansive views of downtown Beirut. The design also includes a public garden that will accommodate site-specific installations, as well as an amphitheater for performing arts.
  • The museum is situated on a plot of land owned by the Université Saint Joseph (USJ) and the chosen design reflects a careful consideration of the museum’s connections to the campus and wider surroundings.
The proposed site is located in the heart of Beirut, at what was once a major crossing point along the old Civil War demarcation line where two major arteries connect diverse communities. The plot (Ashrafieh #4781) is owned by the Université Saint Joseph. A long-term lease agreement has been signed with the USJ for the development of the museum on a portion of the plot, with future educational and residential facilities for the USJ campus to be developed on the remainder.

The site covers a total of 12,603 square meters, 2,780 of which will be dedicated to the museum and the project involves master planning the entire site, including the USJ extension. Apart from designing the museum, this includes new campus facilities for the university, a business center, shared landscaped common areas and underground parking.

The winning design must display architectural integrity and presence, and respond to the site’s strategic location at the confluence of diverse communities. It should maximize external spaces, to create synergy between the university and museum programs, as well as create a welcoming retreat from the surrounding cityscape.

The museum building will amount to between 10,000 and 12,000 square meters b.u.a., in addition to shared underground parking and outdoor spaces. It is envisioned that the museum program will include flexible exhibition and performance spaces in addition to extensive community and educational spaces, conservation and storage facilities, digital and archive centers and public amenities. Given its close proximity to USJ facilities, commercial components like the food and beverage and retail areas will be accessible to non-Museum visitors.

The overall master plan and the design of the museum must respond to the pedestrian corridor developing adjacent to the site and incorporate innovative responses in terms of energy use, accessibility and the preservation of natural resources. The Museum will operate as a stand-alone facility, with administration, operations, security and management present on-site.

The museum will be a dynamic contemporary place, true to its social and cultural responsibilities. It will acknowledge the historic significance of the site and its adjoining institutions and be a place of connection where once the city was divided.

The budget will reflect international norms of exhibition, storage and conservation, as well as the stature of the project.

Beirut is perpetually redefining itself: Mediterranean and Arab, cosmopolitan and nationalist, secular and religious, liberal and conservative, political and hedonistic, superficial and genuine... A city in search of its identity, at the crossroads of cultures from the Arabian Peninsula to the Caucasian plateaus and across the Mediterranean Sea.
Elie Haddad – Dean of Architecture, LAU
A two-stage competition was devised to identify Lebanese architects, based locally and abroad, interested in submitting designs.


Stage One

Statements of interest were received from architects of Lebanese architects based in Lebanon or abroad (registered or associated with an architect registered at the Order of Engineers and Architects in Beirut or Tripoli). A shortlist architects was created from the submissions.

Stage Two

The shortlisted architects were given further briefing on the site master plan and museum program and invited to envision strategies for the site massing and a preliminary concept design for the museum, along with a technical submissions. The design concepts for this stage were treated anonymously.


An international jury reviewed the shortlisted submissions and chose the winning entry and awarded a second entry a special mention for recognition.

The Jury

An independent jury of renowned international and local experts was assembled, Chaired by Lord Peter Palumbo, Chair of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, it included Rem Koolhaas, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Julia Peyton-Jones, Rodolphe El-Khoury, Lamia Joreige, Lord Richard Rogers, Farès Al-Dahdah and representatives from APEAL.
  • Outstanding, engaging and original design that demonstrates architectural integrity.
  • Consideration of a strong connection to the urban context, the adjoining USJ campus and the historic significance of the site.
  • Emphasis on environmental consciousness in building architecture and operations.
  • Design informed by the museum's ideals of openness, inclusion, and accessibility.
  • Creation of a museum that offers a civic space for local residents and visitors to gather, enriching lives and providing an engaging learning environment

Beirut stands out among the cities of its age not only for having helped to formulate the concept of Arab modernity, but also, and still more importantly, for having helped to make it a living thing.
Samir Kassir – Journalist and Author.

Winning Entry

Hala Wardé / HW architecture
Territory of Art - The Well and the Campanile

Design Concept

In such a place of unspeakably rich history, the Beirut Museum of Art must be at once an "artistic/cultural territory" and a "social space."It is not an isolated island but rather one link in an archipelago that runs through the heart of the city, in particular along the Damascus Road and its crossings of various demarcation lines, marked out by important cultural institutions: the National Museum, MIM Mineral Museum, Beit Beirut and further down the port, and the Beirut City Museum.

The city -all cities- usually agglomerate around water. And the settling of a territory is marked by the act of breaking ground. Since the city of Beirut and the museum site contains groundwater, by the first act of digging, we find this primordial element that ultimately gives rise to and nourishes the entire project. A Well (Al-Bir, the etymological origin of the name Beirut), will anchor the Museum's foundations to this territory.

With water we start by creating a lush haven around the well. This Garden, composed of a succession of varied landscapes, expands over several levels and embeds itself in the continuity of the green line created by the surrounding neighborhood and university campus.

The Museum-territory will be marked by an urban and territorial sign that contrasts with the subterranean well and garden, a sign that is highly visible and vertical: the Campanile. As both art and architecture, the Campanile is the strong gesture of the site, its fulcrum and call to "the outside." It is a cardinal point and topological center of culture and identity for a country that gathers and inspires varied convergences. The verticality of the Campanile makes it an immediate landmark in the heart of the city. As a highly visible urban indicator, it is an orienting lodestar for the lost wanderer. It is in some ways the "other" lighthouse of Beirut, a terrestrial beacon, a nod and compliment to its coastal counterpart.


Jury Statement

The Beirut Museum of Art Design Competition Jury, chaired by Lord Peter Palumbo, met in Beirut, Lebanon, from Wednesday 28 September to Friday 30 September 2016 to assess the 12 submissions for Stage Two.

The jury agreed by a solid majority to select as the competition winner the team of HW architecture, Paris, France - led by acclaimed architect Hala Wardé, and gave a special mention for WORK Architecture Company, New York City, USA - led by Columbia University Architecture Dean Amale Andraos. Consideration was given to all submissions for their impact on the city and what each scheme offered to its residents and its visitors, including an analysis of each scheme from a master planning, technical and operational viewpoint. All the submissions remained anonymous throughout the jury review period.

The design by HW architecture, weaves together remarkable landscape, urbanistic, and architectural strategies. At its base, a sunken garden provides refuge from neighboring noise and traffic. From an aerial perspective, it becomes clear that a major new park now extends the city's existing green space, which stretches all the way from the hippodrome and Horsh Beirut beyond. The setting invites museumgoers, university students, and the public at large to mingle in a park-like setting that features both high panoramic vistas of the cityscape and low secluded moments dedicated to performances and site-specific artworks. Directly adjacent to the Université Saint Joseph campus, the project foregrounds connections with the acclaimed Campus de L'Innovation et du Sport designed by Youssef Tohme and 109 Architects, while offering its own roof as accessible public space. Architecturally, the building ramps up from grade at the rhythm of a meandering promenade that leads to the base of a slender and programmable tower. In counterbalance to the well of the garden amphitheater - in essence a landscaped architecture of absence - this totemic tower acts as a beacon, evocative of the historical structures of treasury, lighthouse, outlook tower, belvedere and Campanile.

The jury appreciated the project's respectful treatment of the site and the surrounding context, and also valued the way it creates a succession of varied landscapes and spaces where art and society can come together. The connections between garden, amphitheater, exhibition spaces and roof garden have been well considered and do offer a continuous visitor experience that lends itself to both exhibiting art and engaging with the community.

In making this selection, the jury also recognized that further study would be required of the urban relationships between the BeMA: Beirut Museum of Art's new structure and the adjacent National Museum, as well as possible programs for the tower - a normal part of the design development process of such a significant structure.

The jury likewise noted the high standard of submissions throughout the process. The participants in the design competition were thanked in absentia for their thoughtful and creative submissions, with each scheme having contributed to further understanding the potential of the site and the museum.

Architect Statement

Hala Wardé
Hala Wardé
Studio Founder Architect HW architecture
I am delighted and honored to realize my first major project in the city of Beirut where I was born, on such an exceptional site. This museum program, in connection with the university, will allow us to create a new cultural and social space with a garden and amphitheater, and will single out this artistic territory with a strong and recognizable urban beacon, which through its multiple expressions, will belong to the new urban landscape of the city. It is a moving coincidence to receive this news as the architectural world is gathered in London to honor Zaha Hadid, an inspiration to women and architects worldwide, who was originally a member of this competition's jury. I am thinking of her today with great affection.

HW architecture

HW architecture is an architectural practice created in 2008 by Hala Wardé. HW architecture's multi-disciplinary team of creative individuals has gained expertise in designing and delivering large scale projects such as museums and mixed-use centres as well as small scale projects such as art galleries and private houses. The studio has in-house architects, graphists, designers and model makers supplemented by an external network of specialized consultants including scenographists, museologists, lighting specialists, signage and graphic design specialists, architectural historians, landscape and public realm designers.

Hala Wardé has collaborated for over 26 years with Jean Nouvel. Projects developed by HW architecture in association with Ateliers Jean Nouvel are regulated by a privileged partnership. In the framework of this partnership, Hala Wardé was recently in charge of the One New Change office and retail centre in London, delivered in 2010, and the Landmark project, a mixed-use complex in the city centre of Beirut. Hala Wardé is currently leading the Louvre Abu Dhabi project, which she has been overseeing since its inception in 2006. The Paris-based office has a dedicated team for the development and site supervision of this project in Abu Dhabi.


About the Landscape Architect

MDP Michel Desvigne Paysagiste
MDP Michel Desvigne Paysagiste
Michel Desvigne is a landscape architect internationally renowned for his rigorous and contemporary designs and for the originality and relevance of his research work.
He has developed projects in more than twenty-five countries, where his work helps in highlighting the landscapes and rendering them visible, in understanding the mechanisms at work giving them form, and in acting upon these mechanisms in order to transform the landscapes and imbue them with meaning.In 2011, he received France's Grand Prize for Urbanism for his continual contribution to and reflection upon the city and larger territory. In 2014, he was awarded the European Prize for Urban Public Space for his restoration project of the Old-Port of Marseille.

Michel Desvigne works with leading architects including Jean Nouvel, Norman Foster, Herzog and de Meuron, O.M.A (Rem Koolhaas), Christian de Portzamparc, I.M. Pei, Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers.Amongst MDP's most renowned projects are: the Keio University (Tokyo, Japan), the Otemachi urbain forest (Tokyo, Japan), the rue de Meaux garden (Paris, France), the Ministry of Culture (Paris, France), Monaco's extension Anse du Portier, and several modern art Museum's gardens: Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi, Parc Draï Eechelen (Luxemburg), the Sammons Park in Dallas (US), the Saint Louis Art Museum (USA). Recently Desvigne has been awarded the leading role in the planning and implementation of the Paris-Saclay cluster (7700 ha), the landscape and urban plan for the development of Euralens (1200 ha), as well as the redevelopment of the old port of Marseille.

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