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Modern Architecture in Lebanon: Murr Building (Horse-Shoe)

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Murr Building (Horse-Shoe)


Karol Schayer, Bahij Makdisi and Wassek Adib

The Murr Building is mostly known as the “Horse-Shoe Building” in reference to the legendary restaurant and coffee-shop that occupied the ground floor for many years.

Arab Center for Architecture

Built in 1957, it is the first curtain-wall in the country, a few years only after the Lever House (1952) designed in New York City by Gordon Bunshaft for Skidmore Owings and Merrill.

The glass skin that dresses the northern façade, and brings light deep into the floor, was executed with extruded aluminum members. Bands of clear glass alternate with bands of colored glass at slab level.

The drawings made by the architectural firm reveal the “bricolage” that was necessary in order to produce such a feat in a country that was not yet equipped with the needed industry.

In plan, the layout is extremely simple, reduced to elongated narrow floors facing northern light and served by efficient circulation along the southern side.

A gesture of urban civility is manifested in the precise alignment of the floor slabs with the neighboring Al-Hamra building. The side wall on the eastern side was clad with 2x2cm pink and beige ceramic tiles that matched the travertine limestone.

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

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  • Rola


    July 27, 2019
  • Fadi Nahas

    This is pure nostalgia. When Beirut had its own identity.

    July 20, 2019
  • Jay Ghazali

    Again , Lebanon never was shy or hesitant to take on and mimic worldwide phenomenon and inventions , and this definitely included design and construction of buildings. Although nonstructural in nature and purpose, the curtain-wall design offered a brilliant solution to control weather elements affecting the structure. Hence allowing natural light into the building as well as minimizing the wind, heat and cold effects on its occupants.
    Thank you for sharing this with us!

    July 12, 2019
    • George Arbid

      You are right this is a smart solution for office buildings facing North on Hamra Street.
      Unfortunately several buildings were built later on the other side of the street, facing South, with curtain walls or large unprotected bays of glass, producing a greenhouse effect. Sunscreens would have been more appropriate on that side, while full exposure to unharmful light makes sense on the Horse-Shoe building side. The adjacent Al-Hamra building by Georges Rais, an excellent piece of design, has the same appropriate attitude, but is not a full curtain-wall as the planes of glass rest on sills.

      July 15, 2019