5 Major Projects To Take Place In Beirut: The City Losing Itself To Money

Between articles about how empty Downtown is and a reiteration of every form of the word “Phoenix” possible, there has been plenty that international publications have said about our capital. But there hasn’t been, in my opinion, as interesting an article as the one published in The Guardian today (link). In fact, it has taught me a few things about the city’s future that I felt should be shared.

Solidere’s view for Downtown Beirut is only halfway done. That empty but beautiful looking aggregation of charming but ultimately lifeless buildings is not where things end. Solidere’s view for how the center of Beirut should be is basically to get as many fancy worldwide architects as possible and have them build on one of the city’s plots.

As such, here are 5 projects that await the city in the future.

1 – Zaha Hadid’s Department Store in Beirut Souks

If you thought Zaha Hadid’s AUB building was bad, wait till you see this. Beirut Souks as they stand currently are not expensive nor are they enough for regular shoppers. So, naturally, they will expand in the future with the addition of a Zaha Hadid-designed department store that will also serve as a residential space in some of its floors. Why? Because money, I guess. The place will have be a 5-storey development of 26,370musable area (32,390m2 gross). And it looks ugly. For more information, check this.

2 – Norman Foster’s 3Beirut:

In the “Minet el Hosn” area, behind the Four Seasons hotel and facing Phoenicia, 3 towers are currently under construction, and nearing completion. The 3 towers are basically a staggered face that rises up to 120 meters. And here I thought urban planning in the city had a limit on how many “high-rises” you can have. They are considered “luxury apartments” and as such, add this to the list 99% of the Lebanese population can’t afford but will spend the rest of their days looking at. For more information, check this.

3 – Herzog & de Meuron’s “Beirut Terrace”:

Also in the “Minet el Hosn” area, facing Phoenicia, the “Beirut Terrace” project is currently under construction. An architect friend of mine once said he found the design to be impressive, so I would assume that this one of the better ones from an architectural point of view. In 2013, this project ranked 3rd among 36 projects worldwide in the MIPIM Awards. Of course, this apartments complex is also not within your budget, or almost anyone’s budget for that matter. The penthouse is $13 million. For more information, check this.

4 – Peter Marino’s  1338 Mina El Hosn:

Seeing as that same area isn’t saturated with wellness centers and shopping spaces already, here’s another one. The project includes retail, restaurants and cafés, high-end serviced apartments and a wellness center, the future Beirut Spa and Wellness Center. It will be a continuation of the Beirut Souks project and serve to connect the hotels area (Phoenicia, Four Seasons, Monroe) with the commercial district (Souks, Downtown). Located along Patriarch Howayek Street, it will cover an area of 17,173m2. For more information, check this.

5 – Renzo Piano’s “Pinwheel”:

Sama Beirut, which is nearing completion, won’t be the country’s tallest structure for long. “Pinwheel” is the name of the glass tower to be built at Wafiq Sinno avenue, near Biel, effectively blocking the view for most of the buildings behind it.  The towers will have a department store and ballroom in their lower levels, and a hotel with serviced apartments in the higher levels. For more information on the project, check this.

Bonus – Jean Nouvel’s “Landmark”:

We’ve all heard about this one when the plot on which it was built turned out to have Lebanon’s first Church. Naturally, everyone was outraged. Except this time, because it was a religious building, the outrage ended up putting the project on hold. As it looks now, this will be the project out of the 5 listed never to see the light of day. It was supposed to be a hotel, shopping center – because downtown doesn’t have enough of those – as well as a spa. For more information, click here.

They wonder why we feel disconnected with the city’s heart, and ultimately with the city itself. Beirut is not meant for us anymore. Even the less “fancy” development is not something most of us can afford. The Beirut that our parents told us stories about is nowhere to be found anymore, and if you thought the future would move retrogradely towards a city that’s more accessible to Lebanese, and less aimed at wealthy expats and Saudi sheikhs, you thought terribly wrong.

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31 thoughts on “5 Major Projects To Take Place In Beirut: The City Losing Itself To Money

  1. YOU ARE SO RIGHT!
    Beirut isn’t ours anymore. That’s what I always say. I don’t find myself in those street; the perfect looking but soulless city.

    it is also painful to see more old buildings being demolished to make way for matchbox apartments buildings (because that is the only way we would be able to afford for a space to live in)

    Reply
    • I don’t mind smaller apartments. There should be a shift in Lebanese mentality towards houses and apartments: just because you can afford big, it doesn’t mean you should go for it. Sometimes the space is unnecessary.

      Reply
  2. At least these people are investing, progressing, doing something for the city and for themselves. While everyone else just complains at the city.

    Reply
  3. a few comments:
    1- Zaha’s project won’t have residential spaces in some of its floors-please correct your info.
    2-Solidere is written with an ‘e’ at the end-please correct your spelling
    3- The architect’s name is Peter Marino and not Morino-Please correct your spelling.

    Reply
    • Hello.

      1) It will. Check the link.
      2) Fixed. Obviously I know how Solidere is written as that is how I wrote it in all instances except one. Typos. They happen.
      3) Thank you for pointing it out. At least you were able to recognize who he was anyway. 🙂

      Reply
  4. i’m Excited about REnzo Piano’s project. I love how he always incoporates Green into the buildings. Everywhere, around the globe, City centers are more expensive and out of reach of the majority of the population. DT is a hub of nice architecture and I bet you will be among the first to be shopping in one of those new projects souks. DT is for the rich, live with it 🙂

    Reply
    • “Nice” architecture isn’t always applied, however, and getting big names just because you have the resources doesn’t always amount to something nice. You bet wrong. I’m definitely not the crowd for the new projects.

      And once upon a time, not too long ago actually, before Solidere existed, DT was for everyone. Of course, if you’re content with it being for the rich and empty as it is, then be my guest.

      Reply
  5. The pure products of the show-off Neo Liberal developments who claim to be serving the people while they serve nothing but their pockets and rob off the people – and those who think this aggressive gentrification is a good thing should research more about social inclusion and fair cities. Thank you for the article Elie!

    Reply
  6. Not sure if you people are dumb or what. Beirut needs these things to attract people. Why would you want beirut to just be Old buildings full of gunshots and are just an eye sore? Just because you cant afford it doesnt mean they shouldnt improve the city. Idiots

    Reply
  7. Every city in the world has projects like this
    Even Paris has similar modern projects ” that don t fit to the surrounding”
    I actually think they do and that it s a great thing
    Remembering the past while focusing on the future
    I think solidere saved beirut
    Check how beirut was and then tell me who would have done all that..
    Not the government.. And of course not the people who saw their houses demolished by the civil war.. ( it s not just about refurbishing and building buildings it s about infrastructure and many other things)
    Did you know that solidere had an american company extract the gas left by the war in the soil for two years ?
    I mean if this article was just about taste it would be fine, it s your taste
    But it s about a company that in my opinion saved beirut that would still be as is trust me, it not for them

    Reply
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  9. How do we expect these companies to preserve Beirut’s soul and identity if these architects themselves know nothing about it and didn’t see, witness, live the Beirut of the pre-civil war era? I think Beirut is having major plastic surgeries to make her unique looks fit the international and western standards. But Beirut is not Milan. Beirut is not Paris. Beirut is not NYC. Beirut is not Tokyo. We need to stop comparing it to cities around the world to justify its current ugliness and dullness.
    SOLIDERE not only robbed properties, it shamelessly made Beirut a hideous soulless stack of buildings.

    Reply
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  15. What character? Beirut must one of the world’s ugliest capitals. The centre doesn’t even have character at all, is just a sterile wasteland. So far, the whole rebuilding is mostly adding kitsch. We can do better than putting a replica of a 17th century Ottoman mosque on Martyr’s Square. Imagine if this would have been a Gehry or Hadid design. It would have created a landmark for the city, the way the Guggenheim revamped the whole Bilbao area.
    The new designs – apart from Norman Fosters lifeless towers and the overrated French copycat Nouvel – are very exciting. We are living in the 21t century. let’s build like the 21t century. It’s working in Berlin, so why not here.
    Forza Futurista!

    Reply

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