BEIRUT: Bulldozers began demolishing the three-story Medawar Building, also known as the Maalouf House, in Beirut’s Badaro neighborhood Thursday afternoon.
The demolition of the 80-year-old building comes less than three months after Culture Minister Gaby Layyoun approved the Kettaneh Group construction firm’s request to replace the building with a 22-story-high skyscraper.
Layyoun’s October decision came four months after he rejected the firm’s request to demolish the building, arguing that the structure adds unique architectural value to the city.
In a letter addressed to Kettaneh Group on June 22 of last year, Layyoun said: “The Culture Ministry does not approve the destruction of the building on plot 3696 in the Mazraa area [Badaro] since the building continues to represent a unique architectural pattern in the area.”
But on Oct. 23, Layyoun said: “The Culture Ministry approves the destruction of the building on plot 3696 in Mazraa since the building belongs to the transitional period of the French mandate and its architecture does not have any unique traditional techniques.”
Although the precise date on which the building was built is unknown, architects say that its features embody the art deco style found in Italian and French architecture. Such architecture, adopted by Lebanon’s rising bourgeoisie, became famous in Lebanon in the 1930s and 1940s.
In the early 1960s, Amin Maalouf, Lebanon’s renowned writer and a member of France’s Academie Francaise, moved into the second floor of the building in Badaro with his family.
Maalouf’s mother was the last to leave the building in 2011 after the 1,600 square meters of land was purchased by the Kettaneh Group.
Activists say that the judiciary should open an investigation to uncover the reasons behind the Culture Ministry’s two contradictory decisions.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 04, 2013, on page 4.