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Modern architecture in Lebanon as part of our cultural heritage – February 20, 2018

When we selected the Norwegian-American architecture studio SnØhetta as the winner for our new headquarters competition, we were looking for an architect who would understand our identity, our values and our aspiration for collaborative work spaces. We were also determined to find an architect who would respect the architectural heritage of the city of Beirut and its traditional urban landmark.

– General Manager Raya Raphaël Nahas,
at the announcement of the winning architect of 
the competition in August 2016.


Recognizing the difficulty of impacting the construction landscape of Beirut city through just one building, Banque Libano-Française endeavored to turn the project of its new headquarters into a catalyst for contemporary, meaningful architecture in Lebanon, and to inspire other players through an innovative and enriching process.

Throughout the competition, the architects’ visits to Beirut featured gatherings with the Lebanese academic and artistic communities, as well as real estate professionals through conferences, exhibitions, meetings and receptions organized by BLF.

George Arbid, the Director of the Arab Center for Architecture was among the professionals met during this productive and intellectually-stimulating period. He had a significant contribution to this series of blog posts, which aim to raise awareness on the often ignored splendor of modern architecture in Lebanon**.

We are pleased to share with you every week, for 12 weeks, his notes as well as pictures, plans, sketches and studies on twelve landmark projects which influenced the architecture scene and contributed to a real vision of progress and innovation in Beirut between 1926 and 1997.

**Banque Libano-Française also wishes to extend its thanks to Studio Safar for their contribution to the conception and art design of the theme on Modern Architecture.

Charles Corm Building


Charles Corm

The building located in Ashrafieh in the Hotel Dieu area was built to serve as the Ford cars agency.
It was designed by Charles Corm himself who succeeded in being the exclusive Ford cars dealer in the Middle East at a very young age.
The Art-Deco structure is inspired by the skyscrapers he saw in New York, recessing from the ground floor to the tenth floor. It remained for many years the tallest structure in the capital.
The building’s concrete construction system of posts and beams was a forerunner allowing for large openings namely on the ground floor that served as the cars showrooms, while upper floors housed the offices.
The building was turned into the Corm family house in 1936 and later served as the family offices.
The Charles Corm Foundation is currently converting it into a cultural center.

Source: Rami Corm
Source: Rami Corm
Source: Rami Corm

Saint-Georges Hotel


Poirrier, Lotte and Bordes with engineer-architect
Antoine Tabet as architect on site

Strategically located at the tip of the bay of Saint-Georges, this iconic hotel clearly bears the influence of Auguste Perret with its daring use of exposed concrete, rational structure and space organization. The modular plan skillfully adapts to the functional needs. The rooms are organized around an open-air courtyard under which is found the kitchen, located there to avoid the harsh sun while serving both the restaurant and the terraces outside. Hollowed concrete blocks in the balustrades and walls allow for maximum ventilation and view.
The massive reinforced concrete water tank displaying the hotel sign in relief was built from the start at roof level, taking into consideration the extension of the third and fourth floors that were added in 1946 by A. Tabet.

Saint-Georges Hotel
Arab Center for Architecture
Saint-Georges Hotel Plan
Fouad El Khoury Archives
Saint George Hotel in the 30s

Carlton Hotel


Karol Schayer, Wassek Adib and Bahij Makdisi

When the Carlton Hotel was built, the corniche by the sea had hardly started to develop. The building wasundoubtedly responsible for much of the urbanization that followed in the area. The design parti offered 140 rooms with uninterrupted view to the Mediterranean through openings running from wall to wall and floor to ceiling.

A 2.6m deep loggia prolonged the room outside. The elegant hotel had very spacious reception and dining areas all facing the outdoor terrace where the memorable kidney shape pool witnessed hundreds of weddings and other venues. The demolition of the hotel in 2008, considered by many as a big loss, triggered a renewed consciousness about the need to preserve modern heritage.

Arab Center for Architecture
Arab Center for Architecture
Arab Center for Architecture
Arab Center for Architecture

Starco Building


Addor and Julliard

This office building and commercial center sits between Rue Georges Picot and Rue Rizkallah located at different levels with a connecting street, thus providing two shopping floors with stairs allowing for comfortable and uninterrupted strolling.

Two office towers, the higher one being square in plan, the lower one rectangular, are arranged in a compositional setting.

The center was undoubtedly high-tech by the time’s standards, fully air-conditioned, with state-of-the-art electrical and mechanical systems. The columns, clad with black sheets of glass, give a floating appearance to the white masses of the two office buildings. The uninterrupted horizontal bands of windows were made of double sheets of glass, with internal  micro louvers screening, a device quite new at the time of construction.

Revue Monde Liban
Revue Monde Liban
Habib Sayah
Habib Sayah
Arab Center for Architecture
Arab Center for Architecture

Shams Building


Joseph Philippe Karam

Facing the Pigeon Rock, this building epitomizes the exuberant local version of modern architecture; its most distinctive manifestation being the use of a strong palette of colors with 2x2cm enameled pâte de verre panels alternating on the façade.

A less evident but more important feature is the structure constituted of 34 V-shaped columns, organized in 2 rows, supporting the building and originally intended to give it a floating appearance.

The building is crowned with a modern interpretation of the attic roof. Although resolutely modern, the volumetric composition of the building puts it in line with the classical tripartite disposition comprising a base, a body representing typical running floors, and a crowning level on the top.

Shams Building Studio Safar
Studio Safar
Shams Building Arab Center for Architecture
Arab Center for Architecture
Shams Building Joseph Philippe Karam
Joseph Philippe Karam