• Overview

    Tyre, an ancient coastal city south of Beirut, has long struggled to maintain a viable infrastructure amid seemingly constant chaos and combat. The area’s fishermen—many of whom earn as little as fifteen dollars a day—have been particularly hard hit, as longstanding conflict with Israel has prevented them from deep-sea fishing. In 1984, during the Lebanese Civil War, the ancient city was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The designation brought with it strict regulations on new building along the coast, where the fishermen have traditionally lived, perpetuating overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. In response, the fishermen formed the Al Baqaa Housing Cooperative, convinced the Greek Orthodox Church to donate a parcel of land outside the historic city center, and partnered with architect Hashim Sarkis (with the help of the Association for Development of Rural Areas in South Lebanon), whose practice and teaching have long been focused on the Islamic world.

    In a decade-long collaboration with the cooperative, Sarkis developed a vibrant, modern housing system that not only accommodates the fishermen’s ambitious program and small budget but fosters a rich sense of community with a balance between private and public space, in keeping with the fishermen’s traditional lifestyle. The building, a composite of nine residential blocks, turns inward on itself like a rectilinear nautilus, creating a protected interior courtyard. Fusing architecture, landscape design, and urban planning, Sarkis’s collaborative approach to design has resulted in a residential complex that exemplifies the power of architecture to offset chaotic conditions while respecting the specific social and cultural conditions of the community.

  • Architect

    Hashim Sarkis received his Bachelors Degree in Architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design (1987) and his Masters in Architecture (1989) and PhD in architecture (1995) from Harvard University. After working for Rafael Moneo, in 1998 he founded Hashim Sarkis Studios in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Beirut, Lebanon. The practice works on a broad range of projects, from urban master planning and landscape design to institutional and residential building. A special focus of its research and practical work is to improve the built environment and social conditions in Lebanon and the Middle East. In 2002 Sarkis was appointed Aga Khan Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism in Muslim Societies at Harvard's Graduate School of Design.

  • Audio
  • Credits
    • Design Team: Hashim Sarkis (architect); Ezra Block, Ryan Bollom, Cynthia Gunadi, Scott Hagen, David Hill, Ziad Jamaleddine, Paul Kaloustian, Brian Mulder, Cheyne Owens, Erkin Ozay, Anuraj Shah, Mete Sonmez (collaborators)
    • Landscape design: Hashim Sarkis Architecture Landscape Urban Design
    • Engineers: Mohamed Chahine and Mounir Mabsout (structural engineers)
    • Construction: EBCO-BITAR
    • Client: Al Baqaa Housing Cooperative; Association for Development of Rural Areas in South Lebanon (ADR)