Home to the international festival, Beiteddine has yet to capitalize on this event to upgrade its urban assets and infrastructure so as to reinforce and magnify its role as a major touristic destination. The masterplan takes its inspiration from the rich heritage and architectural legacy of Beiteddine to tackle on several levels such issues as the lack of a clear sense of arrival in the town centre, the absence of hierarchy between the different road networks (main, secondary, cul-de-sacs) as well as the congestion during festival season.
On a Macro scale, the masterplan involves implementing a discreet multi-story carpark and an alternative road on the entrance of Beiteddine to create a circuit that facilitates the flow of cars and people, hence optimizing the operation of the festival. This road will bypass Beiteddine’s centre (which will be closed to car-access during the festival) to reach the parking lots adjacent to the Baakline highway. From there visitors can take bus shuttles down to the Palace and vice versa.
On an urban design level, our vision is mainly based on implementing a distinctive pedestrian infrastructure with landscaping and adjoining facilities to link the various destinations together while encouraging further potential economic activities and programs in such areas as the inner souks and disused structures like Mir-Kassem. Ultimately the aim is to activate Beiteddine in all seasons through providing its residents with opportunities in a unique context.
This vision is conveyed through eight design/landscaping interventions in locations identified as strategic:
Located at the entrance of Beiteddine, this facility has been planned as a carpark for approximately 300 vehicles as well as a bus stop and shuttle station.
Taking advantage of an existing stone retaining wall 3 floors high, the three levels of parking were tucked at the base of the wall away from sight. At road level there is only a corniche/ scenic deck with landscaping and seating areas which allow enjoyment of the valley view. At this level also, tourist buses stop to unload their passengers who can walk to their destination or benefit from an electric-cart shuttle service.
The parking slabs are treated as traditional terraces with stone gabion planters and lush greenery at their edges , to further minimize the visual impact and blend it with its context.
Our intervention seeks to create a clear sense of arrival and a landmark . The asphalted road has been reduced to the minimum necessary for the functioning of the Beiteddine-Baakline road, while the liberated place has been paved and allocated to pedestrians and limited vehicular access. A water feature anchors this piazza reminiscent of Beiteddine’s historical connection to the element of water. Finished with basalt pavers this newly defined pedestrian area seeps inwards towards the church square and souks, continues down to the palace entrance and all the way to Mir Kassem, thus physically defining an economic and touristic circuit.
Mir-Khalil is currently being used as Saraya . The plan is to relocate the ISF to a new governmental building on the outskirts of Beiteddine, and infuse this unique typology with another program to breathe a new life to this structure and the local economy. Consequently Mir Khalil will be reclaimed as a distinctive commercial and hospitality venue. Its internal courtyard shaded by centenary pines is repurposed as an oriental foodcourt and extension for display stands.
Considered as a direct continuation of the main piazza , our first step was to remove all the fences and other obstacles fragmenting the church square to create a space simultaneously connected to its context yet intimate. The predominantly basalt pavement is articulated by stone rings surrounding trees to constitute shaded seated areas with wooden benches around the trunks. These zones are finished with brick-tinted pavers reminiscent of red-tile roofs in the area.
Being the major attraction of Beiteddine, and home of the festival, the intention was to reinforce the majesty of the approach. First we extruded a volume to the same width of the existing stone stairs which became a retail outlet while its roof became landscaped terraces for seating gently cascading down with the road. The axiality of the entrance has been reinforced by adorning the pavement with a star shaped pattern (omnipresent in the decoration of the palace) and a water feature at its centre guiding the visitor towards the palace gates.
With its distinctive arched entrance, and underground barrel vaults, Mir Kassem is currently a disused structure with an expansive courtyard. Programmatically it is intended as an external multipurpose space for events such as fairs, christmas village, concerts…it is tied to the rest of the intervention through the continuation of the basalt pavement articulated by tree-centred stone and red brick rings similar to those of the church piazza.
The park takes advantage of the existing topography and defines a series of green terraces gradually stepping down towards the road where an informal stage shielded by greenery reinforces the sense of a natural theatre. A waterfall cascades from the highest point down to the old canals of the Chalouf area. Landscape also overflows onto the previously asphalted nondescript space in front of it to create shaded passages and potential areas for food sale tents during festival season or other events.
A major component in the masterplan is the implementation of a new road at the entrance of Beiteddine that links it it directly to the Baakline highway. It is meant to reduce congestion and the passage of heavy trucks through the town centre which will become predominantly pedestrian. During festival season, the town centre will be closed to most through traffic, and this road will convey all visitors directly to the parking lots. From there, visitors will be transported via shuttles to Beiteddine’s main piazza and back thus creating an efficient and sustainable circulation network.