LEBANON)         Real estate                                                                       center, mOVIe theater. ...
11"1    The architect and the egg                  role with the war and the fascina-           stirred puqlic interest. D...
LEBANON   3                        ------   m                                      .,   _     ,iI!I    I                  ...
LEBANON)         look for Lebanon ... How do we ex-          consultant ERGA Group, produced          2004 commiSSIOn by S...
everything changed. There was ahuge change in Solidere with big in-terest in the real estate and many bigtransactions were...
Executive magazine article about the egg
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Executive magazine article about the egg

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Executive magazine article about the egg

  1. 1. LEBANON) Real estate center, mOVIe theater. and office building. The dev"elopers, Sama Beirut jn an eggshell and Salha, had ambitious plans fo this development; and wanted to make it the biggest multi-use center in the Middle Ea~t" The egg-shape .. cinema was designed to hold 1,000 "" seats and is 24 meters wide and 11 meters high. It was to be accompa- nied by two towers, of which only one was built and has since been de- Bulldozers of development loom for one the citys last iconic buildings stroyed. George Arbid, professor 0- architecture at the American Uni- versity of Beirut (AUB), explaine n the heart of Beirut is the dis- Solidere sold the land without that the distinctive shape of the Eg tinctive shell of what was once a any legal protection or financial in- came about through unintende complex called the "City Cen- centive to save the Egg, meaning its consequences. ter," also affectionately known destruction is almost inevitable. For "The building code at this time as the "Egg." now, the July 2006 war stopped its was very strict about building movie The Egg, with its nose imminent demolition and the finan- theaters for structural safety," Arbie chopped off and deep scars on its cial crisis delayed the bulldozers fur- said. "So the architect, Joseph- once smooth concrete exterior skin, ther. However, the end appears to be Philippe Karam, convinced the au- has passed through dramatic changes near for one of the last iconic, mod- thorities that the law did not forbid in its nearly 50 years of existence. ernist architectural structures in the the use of the space below the movie Ever since Solidere in 2005 sold the center of Beirut that also carries theater, so he created a retail space land to Abu Dhabi Investment with it the physical manifestations underneath. Once the movie theater House (ADIH) as part of the Beirut of the civil war years. was raised and visible, he was force Gate project, the Egg has been con- The Egg was built between 1965 to give it a distinguished shape. stantly threatened with demolition. and 1968 as a multi-use shopping hence the concrete egg shell."48 I J u n e 2 DOg
  2. 2. 11"1 The architect and the egg role with the war and the fascina- stirred puqlic interest. Dania Bdier, a Joseph-Philippe Karam was one tion that it creates." student at AUB, started a Facebook of Lebanons most distinguished Residents of Lebanon confirm - group to Save the Egg at the begin- modernist architects who trained in this enchantmen~ with the Egg and ning of 2009. Lebanon and designed buildings the history it represents in its current "Wii:Qln four days 3,000 people throughout the region. appearance. had joined-up to the group," she said. "The Beirut City Center was one Marie-Louise Ramy, who grew Th~ g~up now has more than of several examples of his innovative up during Lebanons civil war, ex- 5,000 members and-had to move to contriqutions to architecture," said plained the fascination. Save the Egg Cause due to having Joseph-Philippe Karams son, Sami "When we came down from the so many members in the group. Karam. "The surviving cinema [or mountains to Beirut, the whole of Much of the debate of the group Egg] has become an icon of avant- Beirut used to look like the Egg does does not center on the architectural gar de Lebanese modernism." now," she said. "So the structure intricacies of the building, but in- Many of Karams buildings were destroyed in the civil war and the "WE ARE STARTING TO LOOK SO MUCH LIKE DUBAI AND few that remain are being demol- WE ARE NOT, WE ARE LIKE THE EGG. THE EGG IS VERY ished to make way for high-rise de- IMPORTANT IN LEBANESE HISTORY" velopments, most notably the Build- ing Condole, in Rouche, that was acts as a reminder." stead on the role the Egg plays III demolished in 2004. Arbid disagreed with the idea put Lebanese identity. The architectural importance of forth by Khoury that the Egg does (he Egg is contested despite many not have any architectural value. The battle for identity rap-notch international architects "It is one of the rare free-form For many the Egg is becoming a admiring the structure. structures in the city [and] it was a centerpiece in the battle for the iden- "Architecturally speaking the difficult task to execute such a form. tity, not just of the downtown area, Egg does not have architectural val- It is also important because it is one but the whole of Lebanon. Bdier ue," said architect Bernard Khoury. of the rare cinema halls raised above was very clear about her reason for "There are many more important a freed ground floor," he said. starting up the Facebook group. buildings in Beirut that are, architec- While the architectural impor- "We are starting to look so much rurally speaking, more important. tance of the building is contested, like Dubai and we are not, we are The attraction [to the Egg] is the cu- the debate over whether to demolish like the Egg. The Egg is very impor- riosity of the building in terms of its the structure or not has certainly tant in Lebanese history," she said. J u n e 200 9 I 49~ - " ~
  3. 3. LEBANON 3 ------ m ., _ ,iI!I I Many of those on the Facebook group who support preserving the Egg do so,.because they want to stop what they call the Dubai-ification of Leb~mo~. This allegation is par- ticularly sensitive given that the land where the Egg is located is now owned by the ADIH and the deci-i sion as to whether the Egg stays or goes rests not in Lebanon but in Abu Dhabi. This point has not been lost on those who argue for preserving the Egg. As Jack Samaha, on the Facebook group proclaimed, "Our identity and culture as Lebanese is not for sale [tal Gulf millionaires." Not all agree with this notion that the destruction of the Egg will make Lebanon more like the Gulf, and many posts support the demoli- tion of the Egg. "I saw the Beirut Gate project and I have to say its very nice," wrote Patrick Saab on the Facebook group. "The Egg is a mess, and it can be replaced or rebuilt anywhere else. Put culture aside, think modern
  4. 4. LEBANON) look for Lebanon ... How do we ex- consultant ERGA Group, produced 2004 commiSSIOn by Solidere. In pect to get more exposure if we keep two designs for the site. previous statements, Solid ere Chair- our old, almost destroyed buildings "One of the proposals keeps the man and CEO Nasser Chamma, in standing?" shell of the Egg and the other de- The Wall Street Journal in 2004, ad- The ADIH would not speak to molishes it and no decision by the mitted that Solidere wanted to de- EXECUTIVE in an interview with but developers has been made as to molish the structure straight away. Bdier, in January, an unnamed repre- which one will be built," said Eli But many of the star architects sentative stated: "Solidere wishes us Abu Ghazaly, chief operating officer brought to Lebanon by Solidere, to keep the soul of this dome by ei- of ERGA. such as Philippe Stark and Jean ther reshaping it or doing something With no legal obligation to keep Nouvelle, were struck by the Egg similar. We took it into considera- the Egg it is highly unlikely that the and Solidere decided to think again. tion and we are considering it, be- developer will wish to keep the It was then that they approached cause it also has to financially make structure, as it reduces the built up Khoury to propose a scheme to re- sense for us to do it. For this plot, area of the site and thus significant- develop the Egg. we bought and paid [for] 39,000 ly reduces its profitability. Abu "There was deadlock over this meters squared of built up area, and Ghazaly said that because no deci- site for a while and Solidere did not the dome is only taking up 6,000 or sion has been made as to which pro- know what to do with it," Khoury 7,000 meters squared. The developer posal would be accepted, no images said. "Then in 2004, they called me who is going to buy it is looking at it." of the proposals could be released. to develop a temporary structure that French architect Christian de would last five or six years while they Portzamparc was commissioned to The project that never was figured out what to do with the land. produce a study for the site, and ac- One project proposal for the ren- But then with the assassination of cording to the local architectural ovation of the Egg was KhouryS [former Prime Minister] Rafiq Hariri52 I J u n 8 2009
  5. 5. everything changed. There was ahuge change in Solidere with big in-terest in the real estate and many bigtransactions were made," he said. "It all occurred much faster thanSolidere ever thought it would happen ...The land where the Egg is was sold inone pf the biggest deals and so myproject was stopped," Khouryadoed. The role of Solidere in the Eggssale has also been highly controver-sial,. primarily because of the waythe company parceled up the landand sold it. When Solidere sold thelan4 they expressed a "wish" for thedorile to be kept, but they made nolegal stipulations enforcing it. AbuGhazaly defended Solidere by stat-ing that "to make it illegal, thereneeds to be a government decree." But as Arbid explained, "the WHEN SOLIDERE SOLD THE LAND THEY EXPRESSED A "WISH" FOR THE DOME TO BE KEPT, BUT THEY MADE NO LEGAL STIPULATIONS ENFORCING ITway Solidere sold the land makes itimpPsslble to save the Egg." The manner in which the landwas sold, with a total amount ofbuilt up area, including the areawhere the Egg is situated, did notleave any real possibility for savingthe structure. Despite having alreadysold the right to make any assertionas to the future of the Egg, Soliderestill maintains the structure is goingto be preserved. As another of Lebanons histor-ical sites is destroyed many will befrustrated by the lack of trans-parency and debate over these ar-chitecturally significant sites.There is a clear lack of will to en-gage by Solidere or the ADIH inany sort of debate over whetherthese buildings are worth saving ornot. Those who want to preserveLebanons built environment facean uphill struggle. [I]

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