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Why Should We Value The Downtown Beirut Restoration Project? - 101 Architech Projects & Blogs

Why Should We Value The Downtown Beirut Restoration Project?

Notice - Foreword

Please note, that this blog post 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below was collected at the beginning of the project's execution and many of its components were modified, canceled, or outdated later.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 only informative, and to highlight this big reconstruction and restoration project that took place in the heart of my beloved city Beirut and has still not reached its end yet.

Since its inauguration around the year 1994, this project keeps on attracting many people with fascination, same as me...
  • 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.
downtown beirut
Aerial View: Downtown Beirut, Star Square- Parliament, Photo:

The Beginning of a Huge Restoration Project: The Downtown Beirut

Every new project, whatever it could be, may have critics or supporters, depending on many factors and related conditions. That's exactly what happened when the restoration project of downtown Beirut started to merge.

At this period, I was in my last year of college, at the Lebanese University of Fine Arts Institute (Institut Nationale des Beaux-Arts, INBA) in Tripoli, North 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 restoration project of Downtown Beirut, the most destroyed part of the capital, the heart and the center of the city, after long years of civil war (1975-1992).

This event will actually impact all sorts of activities beginning in this part of Lebanon that will affect the economy of the whole country in a beneficial way; It was the most affected by the war, and the most devastating part. Therefore, we will see many local and international exhibitions and events of all kinds taking place in downtown Beirut such as technological and construction materials, which have the most attraction for the whole people.

Anywhere in the media, there were talks about this big restoration 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 out of a destroying war, to proceed with this re-construction project: People’s opinions weren't all the same or unified;

To be honest, people who criticize it were much more than those supporting it. Not surprising anyway, because every new idea or thought may face rejection at the beginning in accordance with the saying: "human is the enemy of what he does not know".

Actually, their arguments weren't necessarily based on technical reasons, but just political or even personal reasons. It was a first-of-its-kind restoration project in Lebanon and all the surrounding countries if we can say.

Preserving our Cultural Heritage

Although there were many similar projects in foreign regions, it was the first one to be executed in my country, with as many areas to exploit in a variety of investments; It had at least one precise target to achieve: PRESERVING OUR VALUABLE CULTURAL HERITAGE.

All of these talk shows and discussions were good motivations and stimulators for me to choose the theme of my final project to present at the end of the year.

Yes!... It will be about how to preserve our natural treasures and heritage related to all the civilizations that passed here, in my country, and how to display it and let others know about it in the better way possible. 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 CENTER FOR ARCHAEOLOGICAL PRESERVATION".

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

So my final study will consist of two major sections-constraints: 
  • The archaeological excavations and their locations.
  • The Project itself (e.g. The Preservation Building and the related Cultural Center) and where to locate it.

restoration project, downtown beirut
Brochure SOLIDERE 1994

The SOLIDERE Foundation

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) founded on May 5th, 1994.

This rehabilitation was limited to 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 sewage 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 excavations sites of Beirut. Numerous traces of civilizations, such as the Phoenician, Greek, Roman, and Ottoman, were found throughout the discoveries done inside those limited sites.

Several vestiges have been found including Roman and Byzantine mosaics, an enclosure of medieval wall, Phoenician urban remains, and what seems to be a Roman temple.

Stay tuned! I will get in a more detailed information concerning the superb and valuable discoverings of the archaeological excavations in downtown Beirut in the next-to-come posts and a list of the relevant site locations in Beirut.


My conclusion is that downtown Beirut, once a vibrant commercial and financial center at the local, regional and international levels, has been ravaged by 16 years of continuous war. Therefore, this restoration project was a priority and is very crucial for Lebanon, which wants to recover from its numerous problems and regain its normal place on the Middle East and international map as soon as possible.

At the end of this section, one word to say: The value behind this kind of restoration project is that they are processed once in the lifetime of a nation with the aim of revealing the best of its cultural heritage to the world and how they protect and preserve it the good way.

So, we should exploit this none recruitable event in the best way possible. Downtown Beirut is the best place to expose our precious cultural and artistic hidden treasures for the next generations to explore.

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

Main Reference in this Post:

- Brochure SOLIDERE, Information Center – Beirut, 1994 ©
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