Mashrabiya: 12th Century Light & Cooling For Lebanon’s USJ Campus

USJ campus, Lebanon, 109 Architects, mashrabiya, passive coolingContemporary architects in the Middle East revert to ancient techniques to cool and light new buildings.

The earliest known Mashrabiya dates to 12th century Baghdad, Iraq. A special architectural feature that provides passive cooling both in and outside of the building, it was particularly popular in Iraq during the 1920s and 1930s. Unfortunately, the Al Rasheed street Mashrabiyas influenced by the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements during that time have since been destroyed. But Beirut-based 109 Architects has revived this ancient design technique with their own unique twist.

USJ campus, lebanon, 109 architects, mashrabiya

Mashrabiya refers to upper level balconies that are enclosed by a latticed woodwork (or other materials) that deflects the sun and permits natural air flow. There are two theories for the word’s etymology. Either it denotes “drinking or absorbing,” referring to the overhanging’s ability to absorb heat and humidity, or the word derives from the verb Ashrafa, which means to overlook.

USJ campus, Lebanon, 109 architects, mashrabiya

The Université Saint-Joseph (USJ) campus currently in progress is wrapped in Moucharabieh-inspired perforations and a polycarbonate volume. (This is the word’s French spelling).

Not only do the perforations create an interesting play on light, but they also provide shading that keeps solar gain to a minimum during hot summers.

109 Architects paid special attention to the building’s particular urban context. Complete with comfortable meeting spaces and a landscaped terrace that overlooks Beirut, the building also features a random-opening treatment designed to give users a brief glimpse into destruction and violence that epitomized the Lebanese war.

:: Arch Daily

More on Architecture in the Middle East:

Omar Yousef Crowded Architecture

Hassan Fathy is the Middle East’s Father of Sustainable Architecture

Green Houses Open to the Public During Tel Aviv’s Annual Architecture Weekend


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