I’ve been fascinated by glass sidewalks ever since I noticed them in the ruins of downtown Beirut.
Buried in decades of dust and grime, we can see an example of this in the photo above, taken inside the covered walkways of the old Grand Theatre complex, barricaded since the civil war’s end by construction walls.
The 1930s building in the foreground of this shot, and its magnificent arched walkway, has since been demolished by Solidere, the company “re-building” downtown Beirut. But I managed to sneak into the complex a few years ago and took some close ups of the sidewalk:
Solidere did not respond to my question as to whether the sidewalk could be preserved, or at least a small part of it displayed somewhere. It has most probably been completely torn out by now but you can still get an idea of what it might have looked like when visiting lower Manhattan, where much of the 1930s architecture has been preserved.
Glass sidewalks can still be seen in Soho. Here’s a picture I took during my trip there two weeks ago:
Interestingly this sidewalk appears to be much older than the 1930s, as seen in these close-ups:

I wonder if dates were engraved in the glass sidewalks of Beirut. Was the Grand Theatre an exception or were there other glass sidewalks in the city?

The glass pieces are actually much larger and more transparent at the Grand Theatre than these in Soho. Perhaps the style was unique? In resembling some parts of Manhattan, how exceptional was Beirut’s art-deco architecture at the time?

Unfortunately many of these questions have been sidelined in the haste of re-developing the city with a priority to sell plots at high prices over re-telling stories of the past.

Maybe Solidere will surprise us all one day by opening an architectural heritage museum, showcasing some of the hundreds of structures that were leveled during the course of its work.

Inshallah….

Just a last side note, my friend recently had an accident on a glass sidewalk that had holes in it. He decided to sue so he looked for legal representation. He started his search by looking at lawyers similar to Ft. Worth Personal Injury Law Firm. In the end, he found a fantastic lawyer that helped him get the claim he deserved.

Previous articleBus safety
Next articleContext in Tripoli
Habib Battah
Habib Battah is an investigative journalist and founder of the news site beirutreport.com. Battah has covered Lebanon and the Middle East for over 15 years and teaches journalism and media studies at the American University of Beirut. He is a contributor to Monocle, The Guardian, BBC World, Al Jazeera and others, a former fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University and two-time recipient of the Samir Kassir Press Freedom Award. Battah's investigative work was recently recognized for outstanding local reporting by the Columbia University Oakes Award for Environmental Reporting. Battah earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.A. in Near East Studies and Journalism from New York University.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Hi!
    My grand-father (Allah yirhamo) worked in a printing press, in Downtown. My father used to tell me about these glass blocks that gave light to the basement… I think this detail was important to him, that he shares it when reminiscing about old times.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here