If you happen to visit Beirut, you’ll notice how scarce and inaccessible the open green spaces are. Very little sign of trees, shrubs and green spots are found in this chaotically organized concrete city. It is a city that has been in constant layering for centuries; traces of history from the Roman Empire up until the modern times are found in close vicinity to each other, with ruins dating as back as 140 BC to the modern buildings designed by resound global, & local architects. It is only recently that the green layer has become evidently missing and an urgent necessity to modern Beirut.
In 2013, Green studios, a Lebanese/American Landscape design & technology start up won the design and execution of Beirut’s first and largest hydroponic roof garden.
The competition was held by the UNDP Cedro project, to launch the first pilot garden on the roof of the Lebanese Central Bank; the project aimed at encouraging the rest of the banks, real estate developers and individuals to integrate more green and sustainable practices in their projects around Beirut.
The team ,excited to design the project with such large impact set off on various site visits and research endeavors to understand what best fits the site; from weather conditions, to surrounding buildings, keeping in mind the purpose and the future use of the garden by the bank employees and managers.
The 800m2 roof is the lowest amidst the complex of the Lebanese Central Bank, and overlooked by the surrounding higher buildings. The key idea was to have as much planted area as possible and restrict the hardscape to around 20% for occasional activities held in the garden. The main aim was to deliver an aesthetical garden and to collect data as to the benefits of installing a hydroponic green roof. These benefits can range from environmental, since the garden allows for ecological habitats to be restored, birds and butterflies to belong to in a new home, it also acts as insulation for the building from extreme temperatures. The economic benefits since it greatly reduces the heating and cooling bills over the years. Finally, the crucial social benefit, since it provides employees with a new space to gather especially that it is the only green space available in the Central Bank complex.
The design concept was developed around movement and color, since the garden was to be mostly seen from the office windows of the other complex buildings, a dynamic and vibrant plan view was a crucial element at all times. A core platform that allows one to view the whole garden from a distance resides in the middle, while the green element aligned in curvy stripes embrace it from all the sides. The aligned green stripes are interrupted by a series of dunes that produce a wave like motion; as if a green surf has hit the garden. These dunes allow for an apparent movement in the landscape from a distance, and provides the visitor the effect of being contained by these green stripes. The dynamic motion is also established by using ground covers and shrubs of different heights, seasonal interests, and textures.
The adopted hydroponic technique is a series of patents owned and registered by Greenstudios in LEBANON and the USA. The execution of Central Bank was done in collaboration with world leaders in the field, German company ZinCo Gmbh.
The garden was completed in March 2014,and has become an inspiration to a few neighboring buildings as a prototype to copy; in the hopes that this green layer makes its way to most of Beirut’s rooftops, to compensate for the lost green spaces in the streets below.