The Egg as a War Memorial

Author: Archileb

Anthony Saroufim, a committed photographer, has just completed his architectural degree at the ESA in Paris. For his final project, merging photography and architecture, he produced interesting images in relation to the Egg, a derelict building in downtown Beirut, designed by Joseph Philippe Karam back in 1965. When the civil war started in 1975, the Egg, made to be a theatre found itself located on the demarcation line, and lost its spectators only to become itself a spectator of the war. As a witness of the city’s evolution, the Egg was then transformed into an actor, constantly shifting roles and adapting to the changing theatrics of the city.

The project investigates the relationships between architecture and photography. The mechanism of photography is used as a tool to redefine new types of spaces. And architecture is considered as an open platform to create new kinds of links with cinema, and the memory of war.

To be able to see what the theatre saw, the project interprets the Egg as an optical device. It is transformed into a huge camera obscura. Light from the external surroundings passes through a hole and strikes the interior egg-shaped surface of the theatre, where it is turned upside-down, while preserving color and perspective. This represents how the human eye work and gives back the Egg its original function as a theatre, but this time as a virtual one projecting the images of its constantly changing surroundings.

The bullet holes on the site are transformed into optical devices where in the void created by the bullets a magnifying lens is placed. The uncalculated and unpredictable effect of the bullets on the building becomes the only visual contact with the other side.

The façade is showing how the density of the added structure translates the density of destruction. The unfinished aspect the structure freezes the project in time between the end of the war and the beginning of the reconstruction. So the project stays in the phase of reconstruction forever and has the possibility of being something else.

The deployment of optical lenses around the Egg is related to the density of the damaged areas of the skin. The users that become explorers of the ruin are able to understand the war thru the existing damages of the building.

The circulation system made of bridges and stair is linking the optical lenses together. The path used by the visitors to discover the ruin is unpredictable and has the properties of a labyrinth.

Since the placement of lenses is related to the amount of destruction, the added structure supports not only the lenses and the circulation system but also the week parts of the Egg.

The circulation is a difficult and dangerous journey around the ruin. The memory of the users is active all the time to find their way back.

The section is showing how the intervention is taking place on the negative areas of the egg. The inaccessible parts around the egg become the only accessible areas. The positive or interior spaces of the site remain untouched and inaccessible to the visitors and this represent the part of the war that can’t be changed.

Since its construction till today, the Egg had seen the different life cycles of Beirut: During the pre-war golden years when it functioned as a theatre, then the fifteen years of civil war when the Egg was used as a bunker, and the post war reconstruction period when it became the monolith of Beirut.

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