Posted by: audreydk | August 24, 2010

Downtown

Downtown Beirut, and indeed, much of the rest of the city, is a showcase of extreme juxtapositions.  The heart of downtown has been formidably reconstructed from what it was after the civil and 2006 wars into spotless buildings with traditional Lebanese facades, lined with quaint new cobblestone avenues.  Other areas are less consistent, where glitzy new high-rise apartments sit next to completely gutted concrete buildings that remain from the 2006 war.  These buildings often lay empty, perhaps housing squatters or military barracks.

Save the Egg!

An example of a reminder from prewar Beirut is the Beirut City Center Building–better known as the Egg Theater. The former cinema was originally designed by the Lebanese modernist architect Joseph Phillipe Karam, and it was built in 1965 as a part of a larger, three-building complex, when Beirut was dubbed the “Paris of the Middle East”.  The Egg is an odd and wonderful part of downtown, but it is endangered!

The Egg is set to be torn down to build the new $1.2 billion Beirut Gate project in its stead. According to the United Arab Emirates based newspaper, Gulf News, the Gate is a “development project comprised of 8 plots strategically located in downtown Beirut. The project will ultimately represent the new style district within Beirut where it includes residential, commercial and entertainment components.”  This unfortunately signals the demise of the Egg, but there are Beirutis fighting for its survival, like Dana Bdier, who created a “Save the Egg” facebook group that has exceeded its 5,000 member limit!  I, for one, strongly support its preservation because, if for no other reason, this building has withstood years war and represents Lebanese creativity and determination.  Why can it not be restored and used as a cinema as it once was?

Here is the undeniably eye-catching Mohammad al-Amin Mosque that marks the center of downtown Beirut, which was built between 2002 and 2007 by the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was buried beside it. While I did not make it inside, it is an example of the beautiful architecture present in downtown Beirut. The fountain below is another example of a more modernist design in downtown.

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