In an effort to reclaim Beirut's coastline from soaring coastal developments, local architecture firm Najjar & Najjar Architects has created IRIS, a kinematic pod installation that serves as a modern-day civic refuge and energy-harvesting machine. Once an expansive coastline used by fishermen and locals, Beirut's seafront has been overcome with high-end residential buildings that deprive people living in traditional single-family homes from their once-expansive views. The pods will not only provide these people with a more intimate connection to the Mediterranean Sea, but they'll provide energy too!
Najjar & Najjar developed the IRIS pods to create accessibility to the sea in a way that profoundly connects the viewer with their environment. The large, eye-shaped IRIS structures provide surrogate views of the sea that were historically offered by traditional sea front homes in the area. Built with metal and wooden materials, the large “eye pods” are connected firmly to the coastline’s edge to give visitors a one on one emotive relationship with the surrounding natural environment. The structures are connected by extended antenna to floating buoys in the sea so that as the buoys move with the motion of the sea, the IRIS eyelids “blink” in coordination.
Not only a refuge for local nature lovers, IRIS also generates energy thanks to its kinematic design, which propels ocean energy through a network of cables to many dispossessed homes that sit in the shadow of the surrounding highrises. According to the architects, this nature-influenced initiative provides a much needed balance between rapid urban development and environmentally respectful design. They explain, “IRIS is an attempt at resisting the expropriation of Beirut’s open coastline, returning the sea back to the fishermen and the local habitants of the Ras Beirut district. Through architecture, it materializes the threshold condition between two very distinct, yet concomitant entities: the dense city and the open sea. Waves transform the kinematic structure into an experience of place and help harvest energy for the fishermen community.”
Photography by Ieva Saudargaitė