Graham Steps / by Karim Nader

Into the building in 77 steps

The site is bound by two streets on the southern and northern façades, Haykal center to the south east, and Graham steps to north west. The steps connect the upper and lower streets, bridging the 14 meter height difference. 77 stone steps offer an urban opportunity: that of a pedestrian link between the Corniche and Bliss Street. The big building stands at this intersection and short-circuits the public flow into its interior space. The space of the building reproduces an urban experience, that of the stairs.


Cross Section

The building caters for 216 car parks, 9 standard cinema screens, 1 gold cinema screen, 7 shops, 10 e-commerce screens, 1 pub, 1 food-court, 28 studios, 3 houses, 1 health club/hammam, 1 art corner, 1 web-café and 1 rooftop restaurant.

The building is conceived as a block that is sliced vertically by a technical floor at mid level and horizontally by a translucent 2m deep wall that runs all through the building. The technical floor allows a change of the structural system in order to cope for big spans below (cinema and others) and smaller spans above (housing and others). The translucent wall contains subsidiary functions to cinema (projection rooms and service circulation) and shafts.

Around the cinemas, a continuous spiral of circulation –made of a hybrid use of ramps, stairs, lifts and escalator- allows access to all cinemas and constantly links in and out to the steps. It also allows to bridge the difference in height between the upper and lower entrances of the building. Parking, with its 5% constant inclination, is conceived as another continuous space, avoiding to duplicate circulation thus saving space.

The 4-floor housing block is bordered by a health club/hammam below that appropriates small parts of the 2 upper floors and a restaurant above that benefits from view to the sea and the surrounding city panorama. The restaurant is reached by a dedicated panoramic lift that is accessible from the upper ground floor. In-between the houses, a secondary circulation links to other functions like web-café and art exhibition space; it also deals with issues of fire escape.


Cinema –although a discipline concerned with the ‘visible’- has been traditionally consumed by the ground, its subsidiary spaces (entrances and ticketing) monumentalized. Graham steps with its 14 meter height difference exhibits sections of that ground; cinemas remain underground, but rendered visible, their inclined sections readable on the façade and codified: gold for gold, concrete for others, an occasional green marble for the big screen. Cinema and circulation are conceived together in and around each other’s spaces into a continuous sequencing. Shadows of the infrastructure (projection rooms and shafts) are read through the translucent wall.

Cinematography is carried into housing. The small unit (repeated 16 times) stages a perspective towards a wall, the smaller unit (12 times) selected views that puncture the south west façade. Around these repeated modules, 3 duplexes differentiate themselves, by their location, their spatial configuration and size.

The skin of the building, with its mobile façade, eventually reacts to congestion, and opens up. If the space is appropriated by the public, or just consumes this same public, we cannot tell.

Project Status: Proposal.

Designed by Karim Nader and Assem Tannir

With Samar Rizkallah and Nader Kehdy.

Consultant: SAMgrp Sami Moussalli.