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Růžena Mašková, Jakub Tomašík and Adam Rössler, students at the time of the competition, now graduates of the Master's degree programme in Architecture and Civil Engineering at the Faculty of Civil Engineering of the Czech Technical University in Prague, won second place in the prestigious international architectural competition INSPIRELI BEIRUT PORT RENEWAL COMPETITION. They were able to compete in a competition of 249 projects from 43 countries.

The INSPIRELI BEIRUT PORT RENEWAL COMPETITION was a special category of the INSPIRELI AWARDS student international architectural competition. The aim was to design a new look for the renovation of the Lebanese port of Beirut. "After the devastating explosion, we offered to help Beirut by organizing the competition," says Karel Smejkal, president and co-founder of INSPIRELI AWARDS. "The competition ran for two semesters and included assignments for seminars at more than 50 universities around the world. We wanted to show that Beirut is not alone in the crisis."

The topic of the restoration of the port of Beirut was offered to the students by the faculty's architecture studio as a pre-diploma thesis option, as all three were already in their final year of studies. "At the same time, we found the help of Beirut in the form of proposals for possible uses of the port destroyed by the massive explosion of 2020 to be meaningful," says Růžena Mašková. The students decided to work with three people when the project was announced. "We have been helping each other since the first year of our studies. We knew we understood each other and that we could form a good team, so we gave it a try," adds Adam Rössler. The students came up with an urban concept together, then divided the area into three parts and gradually connected them. "But we consulted each other all the time, then we fine-tuned the details and made everything look as unified as possible," explains Jakub Tomašík.

All three students greatly appreciate the work in the studio, where they worked on the project first as a pre-diploma project, and then each of them solved one of the objects or blocks of the design as part of their diploma theses.  During the first part of their work was supervised by Doc. Ing. arch. Luboš Knytl together with Ing. arch. Petr Ledl, Ph.D., from the Department of Architecture at the Faculty of Civil Engineering of the Czech Technical University.  They then worked on their diploma theses under the supervision of doc. Ing. arch. Luboš Knytl, who says: "It is always wonderful to work with students who can support great talent with dedication and hard work. This group, which my colleague Ledl and I have already got to know in previous semester projects, is the reason why we enjoy working at the faculty so much.

The students faced a difficult task while working on the project. "A fundamental factor in our design was to set ourselves against the status quo. The harbour before the explosion was a kind of barrier - it sits on very lucrative land and is a bit of a blemish on the beauty of the rest of the coastline. At the same time, it's cut off from the rest of the city by a busy highway and a terrain break, so we tried to overcome all those barriers and annex the area back into the city. At the same time, we wanted to use the area as much as possible so that the project could be interesting for developers," Jakub Tomašík describes the basic idea of the project.

It was also challenging to prepare a design for a site that the students did not have the opportunity to explore on their own. "We studied the area from maps, articles and books. Fortunately, there were also a number of high-resolution drone photos available, as well as dwg documents of Beirut. At the same time, it helped us a lot that two of my architect friends had lived in Beirut for some time, so they explained to me the context of the city, its structure and needs," says Růžena Mašková.

The scope of the project was also unique. "Compared to our previous assignments, it was a huge area. We have never worked with such a large area. We still had to be aware of the scale and schedule our work so that we could get everything done," adds Adam Rössler.

Růžena Mašková, Jakub Tomašík and Adam Rössler decided to solve their proposal by means of levitating platforms growing through the high-rise buildings. At the same time, they wanted to make efficient use of the area with respect to its built-up area, while connecting the current part of the city with the new one. They also had to cope with the fact that the coastline is lower than the city. "To do this, we used the spider web footbridge that spans the motorway that divides the two urban areas. It is also an interesting feature in terms of views, allowing commercial space to enter and be located on the higher floors of buildings and giving the whole area a unified character. In our design we have addressed both administrative, commercial, residential and medical buildings. In important places we have emphasised the location of sufficient leisure activities and cultural facilities to bring a lively atmosphere to the site. For example, our design includes a seafront promenade which should be one of the main attractions for residents. However, we have also kept part of the area for the purpose of a cargo port, whose function we have tried to optimise," says Růžena Mašková, who was the team leader.

"I am very happy about the success of our students. Their award is not only a testament to their talent and the enormous work and care they have devoted to the project, but also a testament to the quality and comprehensiveness of the education they received here," says Prof. Jiří Máca, Dean of the Faculty of Civil Engineering at CTU.

"The quality and professional workmanship of both the overall project and its partial elements is evidenced by the fact that Růžena Mašková also won the Professor Voděra Award for the best diploma thesis for her part - the design of a high-rise residential building with an adjacent parterre," adds Prof. Mikuláš Hulec, Head of the Department of Architecture at the Faculty of Civil Engineering.

According to Karel Smejkal, president and co-founder of INSPIRELI AWARDS, the jury was impressed by the complexity of the proposal of the students from the faculty, as well as the visionary nature of the project, which presents a clear idea of how to work with the site. "The students made great impression with the high quality of the architectural elements and the unprecedented scope of the project. In addition, some of the judges highlighted the design of the individual buildings and commented positively on the possibility of dividing the individual parts of the project to different development groups," says Karel Smejkal in conclusion.

The INSPIRELI BEIRUT PORT RENEWAL COMPETITION was judged anonymously, with two rounds and 40 finalists advancing to the second round. The 4 best projects were awarded, and the other 4 projects received honorable mentions. The winning designs were offered free of charge to the City of Beirut to help rebuild the destroyed port and to provide ideas on how to incorporate more public spaces into the port area.