Occupying the urban landscape: Burj-el-Murr

A serene sacred monolith stands still in Beirut’s continuously changing urban fabric. This 40 story unfinished tower dominates the skyline of down-town Beirut.
The unfinished building is about 35 years old now. Its construction started in 1974 and by 1975, the start of the Lebanese civil war, 28 of its floors were built. Despite the unrest, the work continued until the whole structure was erected.
The building was structurally daring relying on a hollow tube concrete structure with its facades as the load bearing walls braced by the core buildings shear walls. It was firm enough to withstand the weapons used on the battle-field and to continue to exist as an icon in the post war period. 

Its height, location and facade treatment and structure made this an ideal sniper location. It created a type of panoptic war tactic which drew an imaginary urban circle of about 2.2 km  of fear around it.
After the war a post construction boom took place. Sites and buildings were either erased and reconstructed or developed a new. The Murr tower's problem or advantage is that it is too high to topple and too solid to implode making its erasure problematic and expensive.
This concrete artifact originally meant to be an office tower was only used as a sniper outpost.
Today it stands filled with disturbing memories, horror stories and scars rising to the sky. What is to become of this structure and what should become of it has been an issue to many in Beirut? In the mean time it stands as an unused tower.


With the past blog post, Beirut is ill: The WHOs 'Healthy City Networks',
( http://spatiallyjustenvironmentsbeirut.blogspot.com/2011/07/beirut-is-ill-whos-healthy-city.html ) showed that the required public green  space required for Beirut is extremely scarce. We need to start dreaming of possibilities for  new public green spaces.  Green spaces have a range of functions and types of which not all need to be equally physically accessible. Access may range from the climate change results they cause in terms of oxygen production and or food production, ecological variety, visual access, or physical contact access among other types.

 What I propose for Burj-el-Murr , which is structurally viable, is a landscape of green.
 The Burj’s east and west facade is made of 6 equally placed and sized windows on each floor. The strategy is simple, a range of bush type plants or trees to be placed on each of the widows from inside with guidance to the exterior.   

The result might just be a vertical mountain or wall of green that will overtake the sacred monolith of Beirut.
The project proposal will require an efficient watering system and maintenance system but its result will be immeasurable on the street and urban scale among others. 

The hill will grow on itself and slowly decompose the building. After 50 years when the mound is more or less fully grown the exterior may become habitable in some form and the building will be lost.

Original Images 
by  Ramiabikhalil  http://www.arch.mcgill.ca/prof/davies/arch671/winter2007/students/abou/RamiAbouKhalil_ThesisDescription.pdf
by Centrifugador
all collages  by sandra rishani  


  1. Awesome idea. A very beautiful addition to Beirut's concrete environment, if actually realised.

  2. Great idea!!! Hope it can be realised!

  3. This was the sight f not just sniper fire but also of numerous people being thrown off the top by militias as a form of execution. Your idea is excellent, Sandra - that is if they do not have agreedy developer already eyeing it as the next uber-expensive apartment building. any ideas for the interior?
    Tarek Z

  4. I think this is an amazing idea... Seriously amazing!!!!!

  5. Nominating Sandra for the presidency

  6. Great work. Is the structure itself habitable?

  7. I don't think the structure can be habitable. The idea is to create a hill that grows on itself and slowly decomposes the building. Maybe after 50 years when the mound is more or less fully grown the exterior may become habitable in some form

  8. Thank you for your so cool post,it is useful,i love it very much.please share with us more good articles.

  9. I don't think the structure can be habitable. The idea is to create a hill that grows on itself and slowly decomposes the building. Maybe after 50 years when the mound is more or less fully grown the exterior may become habitable in some form.
    Outdoor Living Areas Dallas

  10. I'm thinking of burj il murr as a site for my fyp.. It has so much potential and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. I stumbled upon this and I love that someone took the time to think of what it can be. I'm not sure how accessible it is though, i tried to take a picture of it and a darake screamed at me! what do you think? Awesome blog btw :)

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