Aïshti mixes shopping with art
Dramatically modern, the new Aïshti Foundation building in Beirut breaks all conventions. It’s an upscale shopping mall and also an art gallery. It has an outdoor sculpture garden with a running track. And it boasts a state-of-the-art building automation solution by Siemens.
Aïshti Foundation, as the building is called, stands in a city that celebrates excess. It is also a brick-and-mortar retail space in an era of online shopping. Creating something unique that confounds such contradictions is part of what Tony Salamé – founder and CEO of Aïshti, one of the region’s most successful retail fashion groups – wants to achieve with this combined shopping mall and art gallery.
“Our purpose was to create a destination for sophisticated customers. Today it is not about coming to a store and buying; you can buy online. It is about how we can elevate the shopping experience or create a surprise for the shopper,” Salamé explains.
Choosing the best building management system
Designed by celebrated British architect David Adjaye, the building is full of visual surprises, from the mashrabiya-like red metal frame exterior to the mirrors and black and white marble flooring inside the mall.
The opening of the building in October 2015 was attended by hundreds of regional and global fashion brand executives, art dealers, artists, government officials and others, reflecting the international reach of Aïshti and Salamé himself. It also reinforces the focus on excellence that Salamé demands of his stores, his organization and also the Aïshti Foundation building.
It’s why he chose Adjaye to design the structure, and Siemens to provide the building management system (BMS). “The idea is always to work with the best in each field, so we chose to do the installation of BMS with Siemens,” Salamé explains.
He said that Siemens provided two advantages: the state-of-the-art building management platform Desigo CC as well as the local Siemens Solution Partner, Khater Engineering, with whom Salamé had worked in the past. Desigo CC provides a single integrated view and control center covering the entire building’s performance. It provides control over building automation, fire and life safety, lighting, IP cameras, and power and energy.
Today you cannot build structures that are not sustainable.Tony Salamé, Aïshti Foundation
Constantly adapting to the environment
Along with Desigo CC, the full Siemens solution includes the Desigo PX automation stations to control chiller plant, boiler plant, air handling units, parking ventilation, water supply services, KNX communicating room thermostats, and Acvatix valves and actuatorsfor the chiller system. Together, this solution supports Salamé’s vision for a high-efficiency building. “Today you cannot build structures that are not sustainable. Being friendly to the environment and reducing energy consumption is the least you can do,” Salamé says.
Adds Antoine Makhoul, Administration Manager with Khater Engineering: “The Aïshti Foundation is like a living organism constantly adapting to the environment in an efficient and harmonious way. It saves a lot of energy by optimizing its energy flows and using highly efficient Siemens technologies. This lowers the operating costs and helps to reduce CO2 emissions.”
Siemens and Khater Engineering also supported the client in meeting a challenging deadline for the opening, particularly crucial given the high-caliber international guest list. “Aïshti Foundation was a fast-track project where the chilled water system was put into operation only three days before the opening. Thanks to the Acvatix valves, we were able to do the commissioning very quickly and the handover of the project was achieved on time with a fully operational and well-controlled HVAC system,” Makhoul says.
Located on reclaimed land by the sea, even the building’s setting embodies a certain contradiction and the intersection of Beirut’s present with the ancient seafaring Phoenicians who came from Lebanon. “It is a beautiful feeling to be by the water,” Salamé muses. “Historically, Beirut and the Phoenicians have always been close to the sea. So the Aïshti Foundation is like a big boat by the water.”
In 1989, Tony Salamé dreamt about creating a lifestyle for the new millennium: Aïshti, which has become synonymous with ultimate luxury in Lebanon.
Since its foundation, Aïshti has grown from a single high-end clothing store into a successful chain that carries renowned luxury brands in numerous branches in Lebanon. Brands include Prada, Miu Miu, Saint Laurent Paris, Dolce & Gabbana, Dior, Valentino, Roberto Cavalli, Marc Jacobs, Burberry, Fendi, Chloé and many more.The Aïshti group also includes several monobrand boutiques, such as Cartier, Gucci, Céline, Zegna, and Diesel.
The company has also branched out into parallel industries, with a full-fledged spa and hair salon, ÏDAYSpa operating inside the Aïshti store in Downtown Beirut, as well as the famed Urban Retreat SPA at Aïshti by the Sea in Antelias, and a glossy, glamorous lifestyle publication, A Magazine, focusing on fashion, entertainment, and design. Three restaurants, People Downtown, People Faqra and ART People also operate under the Aïshti umbrella.
Author: Ward Pincus, Dubai-based freelance journalist.
Picture credits: Andreas Messner
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