BEIRUT: Initial reports that the city center’s iconic “egg” building was to be demolished turned out to be false Wednesday, as heritage activists demanded better communication from developers on the future of the city center.
A campaign was launched Wednesday morning after the Save Beirut Heritage group said that the “egg” was to be demolished in the coming days, citing anonymous sources within Solidere, a private development company responsible for the reconstruction of Beirut’s city center.
However Solidere then denied the rumors. Amira Solh, from the urban planning department at Solidere, said: “Solidere is against the demolition of the Dome and design is under way to integrate the Dome in the new design … with an attempt to create a cultural use for it.”
The egg or “bubble” was built in 1966 by modernist Lebanese architect Joseph Philip Karam and has gained an iconic status on the city’s landscape for its quirky and distinct shape and the fact that it remains perhaps the last pre-war structure within the Martyr’s Square center.
Giorgio Tarraf, of Save Beirut Heritage, was pleased with the response but demanded better communication from the city center’s developers in the future, and an explicit commitment to preserve the egg, originally known as the Beirut City Center, in Solidere’s next annual report.
Karl Sharro, a Lebanese-Iraqi architect based in London, who has worked on three Solidere projects and is the author of “Manifesto: Towards a New Humanism in Architecture,” said that there was definitely an issue of miscommunication surrounding the work that Solidere are doing.
“I know it’s a private company, but it started with a public remit as it was started by the government … It needs to be more transparent. They need to communicate to the public and the press what is happening.”
“This doesn’t reflect well on them even though I do believe a lot of the work that they do is positive.”
However, Sharro also said there was an issue with the origin of such rumors themselves.
“I think Save Beirut Heritage are being intentionally malicious and putting rumors out there. They are using a very emotive argument instead of using a more rational argument … which I don’t think makes for a very constructive debate.”
It was also worth remembering, Sharro said, that “when the egg was built it was very modernist and many even older buildings were destroyed to build it and people were not happy about that then. But then people grew to love it. It is part of the process of change.”
Clarification: The original article said Karl Sharro had worked for Solidere. This is not the case, although he has worked on Solidere projects for a private architecture firm.