Street artist Jad al-Khoury has injected new life into Beirut’s abandoned Murr Tower by using vibrant colors to redefine its existence.
“Burj el-Hawa.” Photo: Elie Abou Jaoude
The war-torn concrete monolith is now decorated with bright flashes of colorful material hanging from every window in the tower.
Also known at Burj el Murr or Beirut Trader Center, the unfinished skyscraper was meant to be Beirut’s trade hub and is among the four tallest structures in Lebanon.
“It stands unfinished, soaring into Beirut’s skyline, filled with scars, constantly provoking the city’s residents whose past is shadowed by war, and present is spent dealing with those harsh memories,” al-Khoury says.
Construction of the tower began in 1974, a year prior to the start of the Civil War. Due to it being the highest structure at the time and ideally located above the “Green Line” that divided West and East Beirut, militiamen utilized the tower during the conflict as a spot for snipers.
“It is time to move on and that was the main factor which made me do this project,” al-Khoury adds. “The colors are curtains that are usually seen on balconies in the poor neighborhoods of Beirut’s suburbs that are vibrant with life. Now they’re installed on Burj al Murr. They keep moving with the wind, blowing the bad memories away.”
Al-Khoury started his “Burj el-Hawa” project on 7 May 2018, completing the momentous task of installing curtains into just under 400 windows across the 40-floor tower in just six days.
“Each side has 192 windows and there are five identical colors for each side, spread in a balanced way, fixed to the wall from one side only so the wind can do its job,” he explains. “Installing the colors took six days and I’m still working on [adding] the lights.”
While “Burj el-Hawa” is a little different from his usual style of painting on damaged buildings, al-Khoury says the change was essential in order to have “movement in its infinite black windows and in order to give life to this giant monster.”
Al-Khoury’s previous projects include his “War Peace” street art, which saw him painting funny characters around the bullet and missile holes of war-torn buildings to replace their tragic past.
An exhibition about the “Burj el-Hawa” project will be opening at Platform 39 in Achrafieh on 28 June 2018, 6 – 9 pm.
Text: Maghie Ghali
After the publishing of this article, al-Khoury removed the colored curtains from Burj el Murr due to the risk of prosecution. The exhibition at Platform 39 will still be held.