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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Beirut Down Town (1) | The Beginning of a Project


Please note, this article is just informative; the information stated below was collected at the beginning of the project's execution and many of its components were modified, canceled, or outdated later.

The target of this post is to highlight this big project that took place in the heart of my beloved city Beirut and has still has not reached its end yet.

Since its inauguration around the year 1994, this project keeps on attracting me with fascination, as many others do...
  • This study is divided into four parts; it is advised to read it in its sequel order to avoid any misunderstanding of the ideas contained within the articles.
Aerial View: Beirut Downtown, Star Square- Parliament, Photo: pinterest.com

Part One | The Beginning of a Project

At this period, I was in the last year of college, at the Lebanese University of Fine Arts Institute (Institut Nationale des Beaux-Arts, INBA) in Tripoli, Lebanon. I was preparing for my Architecture Diploma and on the other side of the country, there was a big event launching: The Reconstruction and the Rehabilitation of the destroyed part of Beirut, the heart and the center of the city, after long years of civil war (1975-1992).

Which makes the end of all sorts of activities in this part of Lebanon; It was the most affected by the war, the most devastating part.

Anywhere in the media, there were talks about this big project and who will be in charge of execution, and what it will look like. I remember that it was a big challenge for a country that was just got out from a destroying war, to proceed in this reconstruction project: people’s opinion was divided.

It was a first-of-its-kind project in Lebanon and all surrounding countries.

Although there are many similar projects in foreign regions, it was the first one to be executed in our country, with as many areas to exploit in a variety of investments… All these talk shows were good motivations and stimulators for me to choose the theme for my final project to present at the end of the year.

Yes... It will be about how to preserve our natural treasures related to all the civilizations that passed here, in my country… and how to show it and let others know about it in a better way. The idea was growing in my mind so quickly, and in no time I found myself confronting the challenge but encouraged by all my teachers and inspectors.

It was the first obstacle that I did surpass already; finding a subject that was never discussed before, a whole new one. A very interesting theme/subject: The National Archeological Preservation Center. 

As I said before, the aim of my project was to preserve those treasures found in the excavations which precede the project works and to show them in their natural places (Archeological sites).

So my final study will consist of two major sections-constraints: 
  • The Archeological sites and their locations.
  • The Project itself (e.g. The Preservation Building) and where to locate it.
Brochure SOLIDERE 1994

The reconstruction of this center, the historical and geographical heart of the Lebanese capital was taken over by Solidére, la Société Libanaise pour le Développement et la Reconstruction of the Beirut downtown, founded on May 5th, 1994.

This reconstruction extends over an area of 1.8 million sqm of which 608,000 are land acquired on the sea transforming what was a public discharge into green gardens, leisure places, cultural spaces, and offices…

In addition to the complete installation of the modern infrastructure of roads, electrical and telecommunications networks, as well as a drainage and sewerage network, the project provides for the development of 4.69 million sqm of buildings intended to be divided into a balanced set between housing and multi-activities within this center.

This set includes a complex of shopping centers, malls, and financial offices, with a superb view over the Mediterranean and the Lebanese mountains. As well as hotels, cultural facilities, public parks, and tree-lined promenades extending the famous cornice of Beirut.

In which the most important thing (as it was being told) is that the project guarantees the preservation of the archaeological sites of Beirut, where numerous traces of civilizations, such as the Phoenician, Greek, Roman, and Ottoman, were found throughout the excavations.

Several vestiges have been discovered including Roman and Byzantine mosaics, an enclosure of medieval wall, Phoenician urban remains, and what seems to be a Roman temple.
I will get in a more detailed view of the superb and valuable discovering concerning the archeological part of the project in next-to-come posts and a list of the relevant site locations in Beirut.


At the end of this section, Conclusion

The Downtown of Beirut, once a vibrant commercial and financial center at the local, regional and international levels, has been ravaged by 16 years of continuous war.

So, its reconstruction is a priority for Lebanon, which wants to regain its place on the Middle East and international scene as soon as possible.

In the Next Discussion: “The Paths of History” A view on the Old Beirut Past and its treasures…

Main Reference:

- Brochure SOLIDERE, Information Center – Beirut, 1994 ©

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