Stacking boxes: the Cube is Beirut’s latest residential skyscraper
Standing alone on the edge of the Mkalles neighbourhood, where the Charles Helou highway begins its descent into the last remaining farmlands of eastern Beirut, the Cube rises in full white glory above its surroundings like an asymmetrical urban lighthouse. It offers views over the Beirut River and across the broad valley towards the increasingly Manhattan-esque skyline of Ashrafiyeh, now dominated by the imposing outline of Lebanese architect, Nabil Gholam’s Skygate project.
Commissioned by property developers Masharii and designed by Michiel Hofman, Patrick Meijers and Jeroen Schipper, founders of the Dutch practice Orange Architects, the 19-apartment residential tower alternates layers of glass wall with sections wrapped in a more sculptural, perforated girder wall façade that lends privacy where it is needed, without obscuring the view.
Designed to make the most of its location, the Cube treats the glittering city and the surrounding mountains and sea as an ever-evolving panorama to be enjoyed both from different angles.
Eschewing the country’s recent trend for glassed-in balconies, an import from the Gulf region, where outdoor living is more climatically challenging than in the eastern Mediterranean, the Cube comes with generous full façade balconies on all sides. Each storey – there are 14 in total – is rotated at 90 degrees, so that the rooftop of the level below becomes the terrace of the storey above.
Services are clustered at the core of the building, which allows for a flexible layout, a format that is increasingly sought by local buyers. If recent developments are anything to go by, Orange’s Cube may not stand alone for long, as the farmlands of the Beirut River valley and the small industrial enclave of Jisr el Bacha that lies adjacent, have been rezoned for residential and office use and are fast-developing into some of the city’s most contemporary districts.