On 13 July 2008 French President Nicolas Sarkozy put forward an idea to unite the littoral nations of the Mediterranean sea along economic and political lines. Linked by a continuous piece of infrastructure in the form of a coastal high speed rail (HSR) line, the proposed Mediterranean Union would include twenty one separate states, four time zones, seven major seas and integrate the economies of Asia, Africa and Europe. This masters studio project led by Adrian Lahoud at the University of Technology, Sydney operates within this premise establishing a new space of discourse starting with a deceptively simple question: ‘what if we could catch a train from Beirut to Tel Aviv?’

The Frame is an urban proposal anchored around a HSR terminal for the city of Beirut, Lebanon. Its interiority is defined by generic repetition resisting differentiation between neighbours. Identical housing units are arranged repetitively along the frame’s perimeter. Beneath the band of perimeter housing is a cellular matrix of small scale office units which can be aggregated into larger cells. A light rail system runs the perimeter of the Frame, puncturing the building with a void every 250 metres while linking activity nodes and vertical circulation systems with a larger integrated tram network for the city. The proposed HSR terminal crosses this light rail loop, terminating at the midpoint of the frame’s edge. The Terminal becomes a node linking infrastructure operating at various scales and speeds, connecting fixed forms of global and regional networks to informal urban transport.

As an artefact the frame operates as an antithetical provocation, an object whose formal clarity is set against the backdrop of Beirut’s fractal political landscape. A square structure measuring 1km by 1km cantilevers at an angle of 5 degrees over the sea. The perpetually agitated city is met with a panorama of possible order. The sea resists occupation, it cannot be claimed, in this context it becomes the last neutral space.

Project Team: Regan Ching, Laura Guepin, Albert Quizon

Project Tutor: Adrian Lahoud