Eight years after the American University of Beirut decided upon a final design for the Issam Fares Institute, the building has finally opened its doors.
But the structure, designed by renowned architect and AUB alumnus Zaha Hadid, has drawn both ardent support and sharp criticism from the campus and architectural communities.
Zaha Hadid, who originally hails from Baghdad is known for her award-winning and often unconventional designs.
Elie Fares, AUB Medicine student and Lebanese blogger wrote:
” Is it hideous? You bet. Is it an atrocity? Definitely. Does it take away from the charm of AUB’s upper campus? Well, it is a concrete block with holes in it. Again, unprofessional opinion here. Why is such an ugly building overshadowing Nicely Hall? Because it has Zaha Hadid affixed to it, the world’s most famous architect, who “won” the competition to build this.
As if the pull of her name alone isn’t enough to sway the competition. I have to ask – and it’s obviously too late now for such a question – but didn’t anyone from AUB’s administration get a tinge of nausea as they passed by this growing structure and saw it disfiguring the campus many of them call home? And isn’t the mere presence of such a building disrespectful to the architecture faculty at AUB which is more than capable of coming up with better and more campus-relevant buildings?
But I guess this is how things roll around the country: go with the flashiest, most expensive, most prominent names because that’s sure to be better. Issam Fares- no relation-, after whom this building is named, should probably sue them for libel.”
The design submitted by Zaha Hadid, a former AUB student who is currently an internationally-acclaimed architect, was selected from among all the submitted proposals. The building itself is set to be inaugurated next week with big fanfare.