BEIRUT: In wake of the challenge to transform the historic cross-vault in Beirut’s Grand Serail into a technologically-empowered working environment and a digital oasis, more than 140 students from seven universities gathered at the Grand Serail to showcase their work in progress to their respective deans, while taking measurements of the hall and engaging in a Q and A session with the Prime Minister himself, Saad Hariri.
“I want you to consider this [space] as your own private space, and I want to welcome you all as the young generation driving Lebanon forward,” Hariri told the crowd.
He then commented on the architectural design of the cross vault. “What I like about this room itself is that it preserves the old centuries plus injecting technology in them, and I want it to be filled with young people. This is what we’re trying to do by giving more opportunities to students.”
The Grand Serail Beirut is known for being a historic building and the most important of three Ottoman monuments on the Serail hill in Downtown, Beirut. In 2018, Prime Minister Hariri announced the transformation of the historic cross vault in the Grand Serail into a creative working environment, by bringing the Serail Creativity Hub, a digital oasis, to life with the help of IDEAS Accelerate Growth, a citizen-centric organization.
An introductory meeting was held in February 2019 for the Deans of architecture faculties across Lebanese universities in order to formally launch the competition that is allowing architecture students to be the designers of the Serail Creativity Hub.
“The purpose of this meeting today is to show unity and support with the students and answer their questions, make sure all is going on track,” Serail Design Competition project manager Ezzat Kraytem told Annahar. “Their real challenge is blending the old with the new architecture in a pleasing aesthetic manner.”
And indeed, the students were not short of enthusiasm.
“We are working on introducing the high-tech concept of parametric design into the hall in a sustainable way that preserves the historic cross vaults. This gives the space a feeling of movement and dynamism,” Loulouwa Alame, a student at BAU, told Annahar excitedly. “Our team meets about four times a week and we’ve been very excited about this.”
After all the student teams had taken their measurements of the hall, a brief speech was given by Yasmina El Khoury, head of business and innovation at the PM’s office, in which she urged the students into action to “bring this unique space into life.”
“This creativity hub falls under our Prime Minister’s vision of fostering innovation into every aspect of our economy, fostering job growth and inclusive growth,” she said. “We are confident that together we can achieve this vision: a vision of an innovation nation.”
An open Q and A session was held with PM Hariri in which he addressed questions about opportunities for youth in the country, the importance of technology and how fast it is changing the world, the fruitless resistance to change and the importance of transparency in the competition. “Hopefully this year we’ll see more stability in the country and more tourism,” he noted.
It should be noted that the winning team will have their project executed by architect Salim Ansari and his firm.
An-Nahar is not responsible for the comments that users post below. We kindly ask you to keep this space a clean and respectful forum for discussion.