Name: Holiday Inn-Saint Charles City Center
Typology: multi-functional centre and hotel
Architects: Andre’ Wogenscky and Maurice Hindie
Style: Modernist, international style, straight neat lines, inspired by Le Corbusier
The St. Charles/Holiday Inn was erected on the site of the former Hospital St Charles, founded by the German religious order of Saint Charles Borromeo in 1908. In 1963 the hospital moved to the locality of Baabda, north of Beirut.
The hotel was part of the multi-functional centre ‘Saint Charles’ which contained shops, markets, supermarkets, furnished apartments, libraries, companies’ offices, a movie-theatre, and restaurants. Saint Charles was the fruit a joint investment between several Lebanese banks to create a modern centre projecting Beirut towards the end of the millennium.
St Charles was only the latest of numerous megaprojects built in Beirut in the 1960s and 1970s. There was a lot of controversy about the city’s unsustainable development and continuous disregard of planning regulations.
Saint Charles and Holiday Inn opened in 1974, when the Cold War was still the dominant geopolitical narrative. According to the New York Times, The first movie scheduled in the Saint Charles cinema was The Tamarind Seed where a British civil servant (Julie Andrews) falls in love with a Russian agent (Omar Sharif), however after protests by the Russian embassy, the screening was delayed.
From its opening, the hotel was, together with the Phoenicia Intercontinental, one of the most fashionable places for the Beiruti and foreign jet-set. Before long, however, civil war took over.