The Egg - Beirut
Affectionately known as ‘The Egg’ by the locals, this is all what remains from what was once an architecturally ground breaking multi-purpose complex in Beirut, designed by the modernist genius that is Joseph Philippe Karam.
The complex was a combination of office and residential space, combined with a mall on the 1st three floors that could be reached by escalators from the ground.
The egg was the complex’s multi-purpose space, mostly used as a theater and a cinema. It was built around the time when Arab cinema was at its golden age and Beirut was the pioneer of the dream sequence technology. Whether it was actors, technicians, studios or just good old cinemas, where Beirut went the Arab world followed. They were shot in Egypt and made famous in Beirut.
After the war broke out, the complex, unfortunately situated right on the ‘Green Line’ that separated east and west Beirut, suffered extensive but repairable damage. Shortly after the war ended however, the Ministry of Finance bought the lease of the land and destroyed the main building to re-built its own ministry premises. The plans were later abandoned leaving ‘The Egg’ as the only remaining structure.
Ever since then plenty of plans have come and gone and the structure has been threatened several times. Lebanon’s laws on architectural heritage are quite lax, and they hardly ever protect modernist and art-deco era buildings. The focus is mostly on much older buildings leaving a country with a wealth of modernist structures in danger of losing some of its most important assets.
Public perception of modernism in Lebanon is quite mis-guided. The abundance of these buildings from the early 20th century all the way to the 80s meant that they have become part of the Lebanese urban landscape and in no way seen as endangered.
Recent civil society groups have managed to bring this issue back into the forefront and The Egg in many ways is the symbol of this fight. Lose it and very slowly but surely, you will lose all of Lebanon’s modernist history.