The Scars of the City

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Over the last 18 months, Lebanon has simultaneously faced an unprecedented series of dramatic situations: the exacerbation of a systemic economic crisis, which has seen the country’s GPD decreasing from close to US$ 55 billion in 2018 to an estimated US$ 33 billion in 2020; the diffusion of COVID-19; and, also, the terrible explosion at the Port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, which has produced hundreds of victims and thousands of injured, with damages estimated around $4 billion, concentrated in housing and cultural heritage. Significant areas of the city’s waterfront, as well as historic buildings, hospitals, infrastructures, warehouses and the major grain silo, have been seriously damaged. Today, in the city center, besides the signs of the devastation caused by the August explosion are other forms of ruins, which trace back to the Civil War (1975-90), and which are equally charged with political and cultural connotations. A few miles away from the port, in fact, stands the so-called Egg—a ruined concrete shell located in proximity of the famous Martyrs’ Square. Originally designed in 1965 by Lebanese architect Joseph Philippe Karam, the Egg is paradigmatic of Beirut’s current problems, but also of its incredible challenges and opportunities. Its location tells us about the intricate relationship between design, politics and public space. This article describes the Egg for its relevance as sounding board of higher instances, and its appropriation as a political act. The choice of the Egg as ideal place for conversation has crystalized the rise of alternative models of participation and, at the same time, has testified the latent capability of architecture to provide a framework for action. The Egg becomes an amplifier: its interiors absorb and reverberate the need for new demands—either spatial and political.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLe Visiteur
VolumeThe Twenty-First-Century Polis
Issue number27
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


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