Unbuilt 1 – U.S. Embassy in Beirut by Ralph Rapson, 1953

This is the first in a series of articles documenting unbuilt proposals in Lebanon designed by international or local architects. Unbuilt is a retrospective on an architectural dynamic that never saw the light of day for varying reasons.

The following is a proposal for the U.S. Embassy building in Beirut, conceived by Ralph Rapson in 1953.  

“One of the first projects they [Architectural Advisory Committee] reviewed was a design prepared by a Lebanese architect for a proposed embassy in Beirut, a scheme that reminded committee members of prior projects in Rio, Havana and Madrid. There was disagreement as to whether or not it was appropriate, and discussion followed about various alternatives. This prompted members to conclude that they were beginning to function in the role of the architect. Instead, they recommended selection of a new architect and a “fresh start”. Eventually, in 1957, FBO (Foreign Buildings Operations) retained Ralph Rapson to design the Beirut embassy, but the project was suspended during the Lebanese Civil War in 1958. In 1971, FBO retained McCue, Boone and Tomsick to design the embassy; again the project was suspended amidst civil war and was never built.”
 Jane C. Loeffler, 1998, The Architecture of Diplomacy- Building America's Embassies, Princeton Architectural Press, p.140
Ralph Rapson (1914- 2008) was an American architect, designer and entrepreneur. He received his education at the University of Michigan and then Cranbrook Academy of Arts. Rapson served as the Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota from 1954 till 1984, and is known for his 1963 design of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. He also worked for the U.S. Government's Department of Foreign Buildings in the 1950s, with a condition that all projects that he would be in charge of would be furnished from Knoll. This contributed to the rise of Knoll Associates as leader in American modern design and in the New Bauhaus in Chicago. Rapson is best known for the design of the U.S. Embassy buildings in Stockholm and Copenhagen.


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