Repair of 10 Public Schools in Beirut

Karim Nader Studio

Architects: Karim Nader Studio with architect Ivana Nestorovic
Location: Beirut, Liban
Area: 1,000.00 m2
Year: 2021
Photography: Dia Mrad

On the August 4, 2020, the third biggest non-nuclear explosion ever recorded rocked Beirut from its epicenter at the port, spreading across several kilometers, leaving the city and its neighborhoods in a state of complete destruction and human despair. As part of the relief efforts to rebuild and recover educational spaces that were affected, Karim Nader Studio was approached by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation to repair 10 public schools in the west of Beirut in an emergency swift action in coordination with the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education.

School 60 – Dr. Iman Kabbara Chaarany Secondary Public school. After repair. Photo: Dia Mrad.

Karim Nader Studio, with the architect Ivana Nestorovic, took charge of the detailed assessment of the damage, along with identifying other structural and functional weaknesses in each building. Additionally, the architects were in charge of the tendering process, which included the preparation of tender documents and the selection and evaluation of adequate contractors, followed by supervision of the execution phase.

School 60 – Dr. Iman Kabbara Chaarany Secondary Public school. After repair. Photo: Dia Mrad.

The schools were classified in two groups: those that are situated in heritage buildings, some of them dating from the end of 19th century; and others that occupy buildings dating from late 1950s and onwards. Hidden in the old neighborhoods of Beirut such as Mar Elias (School 60 – Dr. Iman Kabbara Chaarany Secondary Public school and School 61 – Rafka Taji Kindergarten), Zoqaq el Blat (School 16 – Zoqaq Al Blat Mixed), Burj Abi Haidar (School 20 – Burj Abi Haidar Mixed Public Kindergarten), Ras el Nabeh (School 44 – Ras El Nabeh Second Public School for Girls) and Basta (Schools 12 and 14 – Beirut Alaliya Girls Intermediate and Ras El Nabeh Second Mixed), each school modestly reflects the era in which it was built.

School 20 – Burj Abi Haidar Mixed Public Kindergarten, Beirut, Lebanon. After repair. Photo: Dia Mrad.

School 20 – Burj Abi Haidar Mixed Public Kindergarten, Beirut, Lebanon. After repair. Photo: Dia Mrad.

Aiming at preserving those qualities, the construction that was undertaken in heritage buildings mostly involved the restoration of specific architectural elements such as triple-arched windows and wooden decorative elements, largely found above partition walls that separate the rooms from central areas, repair of massive wooden doors and windows, repair of lime plaster walls, uncovering of wooden ceilings, and the repair and retiling of red tile roofs. The most apparent example of the executed work is surely the kindergarten in Burj Abi Haidar (School 20 – Burj Abi Haidar Mixed Public Kindergarten).

School 20 – Burj Abi Haidar Mixed Public Kindergarten, Beirut, Lebanon. After repair. Photo: Dia Mrad.

Some of the schools that occupy modern buildings built in late 1950s gave us the opportunity for programmatic improvements. For, example in a school in Zoqaq el Blat (School 16 – Zoqaq Al Blat Mixed), whose building belongs to one of the oldest Beiruti families, the studio got the chance to transform the unused roof area into a multifunctional space, renovating two rooms and transforming them into an arts and crafts room that will give the school an opportunity to expand their curriculum and engage students in creative works.

Another area on the roof terrace was prepared to receive a green house, which will be implemented in Phase 2 of the project.

School 16 – Zoqaq Al Blat Mixed, Beirut, Lebanon. After repair. Photo: Dia Mrad.

Different interventions to enhance the energy efficiency of the building’s envelope were executed along with other repair works. Some of them include the replacement of windows (steel or aluminum frames) with double-glazed glass, reapplication of a double-layered waterproofing membrane for flat roofs, replacement of asbestos canopies, treatment and encapsulation of asbestos panels, and assessment and treatment of water leakage in affected areas.

School 16 – Zoqaq Al Blat Mixed, Beirut, Lebanon. After repair. Photo: Dia Mrad.

School 16 – Zoqaq Al Blat Mixed, Beirut, Lebanon. After repair. Photo: Dia Mrad.

Throughout Phase 1, it became clear that additional actions were needed in order to prevent buildings, especially those of historical significance, from deteriorating further. It also occurred to the architects that there was a need for more spatial improvements and programmatic adjustments. Some of these changes, such as urban gardening and art wall painting, will be implemented through a series of workshops as part of a participatory approach that will involve students in the design and execution, as well as the maintenance and preservation of these newly added areas.