The Town Hall explores the potential of megalithic form, and how in its simple monumentality, it can open architecture to the city and landscape without compromising its formal integrity. Byblos Town Hall was awarded to Hashim Sarkis Studios through an anonymous, open competition.
Byblos is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and the most visited tourist site in Lebanon. The ancient center focuses on tourist trade. It is well connected and embedded in a network of high-quality public spaces. Byblos residents live and work in the neighborhoods in three directions around the core. The Byblos Town Hall, in an effort to bridge the two cities, is positioned at the interchange of the north south highway that separates the city from its suburbs, within a public park and near a tourist information area.
The architecture of the new building expresses old Byblos’ archaeological heritage through simple abstract volumes with a strong relationship with the landscape. Three megalithic volumes float over an existing park, supported by a noise barrier along the highway to the west and a common lobby to the east. The three volumes correspond to the three programmatic elements of the town hall: the administration, the presidency, and a museum of the Phoenician alphabet that originated in Byblos. The floor plans are completely open allowing for maximum flexibility in the layout. The upper levels of the administration and presidency volumes are connected to each other by bridges. A park runs under the three volumes and culminates in the lobby/cafeteria. An outdoor exhibition space is featured on the inner face of the noise barrier.
The three volumes are solid on the outside but open to the spaces between. The surfaces of the building host several graphic forms. The blank exterior facades update the city’s characteristic sandstone to a contemporary aesthetic by cutting the sandstone into thin strips that are sorted out into four shades of yellow. The strips are then used as pixels and laid out on the facades to follow the pattern of one large block of travertine stone so that when seen from a distance the three volumes each appear as monolithic stone. When seen close up, the surface pixelation and thinness are revealed. The inner facades consist of a Prussian blue, barcode-style curtain wall made of aluminum and applied to a black background. The bars extend horizontally over the gaps between the buildings in the form of a pergola. A third graphic is the Phoenician alphabet that is abstracted into primordial geometries and repeated on the interior of the noise barrier as a graphic register of noise waves.
Hashim Sarkis Studios (HSS) is based in Boston and Beirut. We specialize in architecture, landscape and urban design.
The practice advocates the heightened role of design in addressing and shaping context by achieving a synthesis between the landscape, urban, and architectural aspects of every project. HSS has worked in rural and urban locations in the fields of master planning; mixed-use, institutional, and residential architecture; and landscape design. Major completed projects include the masterplan of the Byblos Historic Core, Byblos Town Hall, Housing for Fishermen and the Balloon Landing Park.
HSS has received several awards and has been extensively published including in the Phaidon Atlas, Metropolis, Architectural Record, The Architect, Harvard Design Magazine and PLOT. The office has exhibited in the New York Museum of Modern Art and the Venice Architecture Biennale.