Hashim Sarkis was appointed to design the new Byblos Town Hall, following an anonymous open competition. Byblos, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and a UNESCO worldheritage site, has been growing outside the historic city boundaries to the point where most of the urban population now lives in its suburbs. Boasting a historic harbour, two crusader castles, several historic churches and mosques, along with an extensive Phoenician, Hellenistic and Roman heritage, the city is the most visited tourist site in Lebanon.
In an effort to centralise the city, the chosen site for the new town hall is at the interchange of the north-south motorway that separates the city from its eastern suburbs, in a public park and near a tourist information area.
The building is broken down into three large blocks that span the park, each housing a different usage component. The gaps between them bring light into the park and the buildings. The park is open to the public, as well as the ground floor of the complex. The three blocks are supported by the circulation cores on the east side and a long wall on the west side that acts as a noise barrier towards the motorway.
For noise and heat insulation, the blocks are closed to the outside and clad with sandstone, the „official stone“ of the city. The offices are open towards the spaces between the blocks, with the façades clad in aluminium louvres that extend horizontally to become pergolas over the park that weaves between the blocks. A future urban design scheme will include a pedestrian bridge over the motorway to connect both sides of the park, as well as the older and newer parts of the city.Each of the three volumes houses a different usage, namely offices for the three entities sharing the building: the municipal departments, the municipal council offices, and an interactive museum, which also provides a multipurpose hall for the town. The volumes are both separated from each other and connected at ground level. The ground floor level enclosed with glass contains the communal spaces: entrances, information, city cashier, cafeteria and exhibition space. Technical functions and the police department are located within the constructed base, on the level of the park.
The structure is built of reinforced concrete. The structure of each volume consists of a core, two columns to the west embedded in the noise barrier and two additional columns in the case of the two longer boxes. The spaces within the boxes are left open and clear for maximum flexibility.
In order to avoid the unpredictable patterns of sandstone and to express the monolithic nature of the pieces of stone, the stones were cut into thin strips 7 centimetres wide and with a variety of lengths. They were then separated into four shades and assembled on the façade following a pixelated pattern of yellow travertine.
On the inner face of the lobby, a mural representing a geometric abstraction of the Phoenician alphabet introduces one of the many different forms of art and calligraphy expression that the building´s architecture hosts.