As in any great film, Beirut’s illuminated downtown reveals no unintended harsh shadows, no light sources or fixtures. Its Ottoman-style and French-mandate buildings and their Arabesque, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco details subtly emerge with strokes and washes of what might be moonlight. It’s all an illusion, except the illusion hasn’t been created for the ephemeral moment of the shot.
Lighting Beirut Architecture, an ambitious project designed by the French lighting-design firm Light Cibles, was a first step in an ongoing transformation of the city’s downtown nightscape. The initiative, directed by Solidère, the real-estate developer responsible for the Beirut Central District and its post-civil-war reconstruction since 1994, was conceived in 2004. It was put on hold after the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005, then revived in 2009, in part to spotlight Rafael Moneo’s Beirut Souks, a new shopping complex there.