A Modernist Edge to a Traditional Campus-Scape
The new, permanent home of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs is turning heads and sparking conversation across the AUB campus. Developed with the support of a generous donation by former Deputy Prime Minister Issam Fares, the striking 3000-square-meter building represents AUB’s ambitions into the 21st century. Crowning the Green Oval, the ultra modern construction with a distinctive cantilevered wing is a work by internationally acclaimed architect Zaha Hadid, a former student of mathematics in AUB’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy is Hadid’s first completed building project in the Arab world. Known for pushing the boundaries of architecture, Hadid is the first woman to win the coveted Pritzker Prize in architecture. She is the architect of signature buildings including the Contemporary Arts Center in Cleveland, Ohio, USA; the Guangzhou Opera House in China; and MAXII – the National Museum of the 21st Century in Rome, Italy.
The new IFI building features Hadid’s trademark futuristic appeal with multiple, geometrically erratic points of perspective. Hadid has engineered for AUB a facility that accommodates the specific functions of a modern-day think tank where the scholars, journalists, diplomats, and policy makers who are central to the work of the Institute will be able to teach, research, convene, and collaborate.
Form and Function Signal a New Age in International Affairs Education and Research
The Hadid design was one of five considered for the project in 2004, when the project was initially commissioned through a multi-million dollar donation by former Deputy Prime Minister Issam Fares and the Fares Foundation. It was selected by a jury of nine distinguished Lebanese and international experts including then-AUB President John Waterbury, and faculty members George Arbid, Robert Zaliba, Jala Makhzoumi and Stephen A. Campbell. The design was selected as much for its form as its function as a hub of innovation and solution-setting in our complex, modern world.
The building will be AUB’s hub for international affairs education and public policy research. A spacious auditorium is located in the basement of the building. The first floor includes conference and workshop space. IFI directors will inhabit the second floor of the space, which also features a lounge. Research offices are on the third and fourth floors, with the fourth floor also accommodating seminar rooms that each accommodate up to 35 people. On the fifth floor, the IFI structure offers a reading room and a rooftop terrace.
Beyond the Building: IFI Reach and Impact
The Institute is growing both in terms of the number and reach of its programs across the region and the globe. The Issam Fares Institute has emerged as a strategic partner to AUB faculty, to worldwide faculty, and to agencies and organizations seeking to advance research and policy making in areas including climate change, the Arab youth bulge, Palestinian refugees, and the UN in the Arab world.
IFI has generated nearly $3M in research grants and revenue since its inception and in turn, has made 65 research grants to AUB faculty and graduate students. The Institute counts among its strategic partners and collaborators academic institutions and research centers including Harvard University, the National University of Singapore, the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, UNICEF, and others.
Individually and in partnership, IFI is pioneering new fields of research in the MENA region, particularly in the area of public policy-making, the use of evidence-based research, the role of think tanks, and research centers in knowledge production, multidisciplinary research, and more. It issues a range of publications such as policy memos, scholarly reports, and book-length conference proceedings. IFI also hosts actual and virtual public lectures and panels.
The independent, research-based, policy-oriented institute is committed to increasing and deepening knowledge-production in and about the Arab region, and to creating a space for the inter-disciplinary exchange of ideas among researchers, civil society actors, and policy-makers. It currently works on several programs addressing the region’s issues, including the refugee crisis, climate change, food security, water scarcity, youth, social justice and development, urbanism, and the UN in the Arab world.