Architecture: A Mean to Coexistence – Artsy Fartsy Guest Blog by Ani Simitian

I know few people with as much enthusiasm and passion for what they do. Ani is touching on a very imporant issue that has been greatly neglected and largely overlooked, by most people, including myself. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:

Architecture is the ultimate form of art. We experience it everyday, while walking around our homes, from the slightest of details to the most significant features, everything adds up to this architectural experience which shapes the person’s lifestyle, mood, and has the power to inspire or demoralize.

Unfortunately, with the Lebanese civil war, which lasted 15 years, people thought less of aesthetics and more of practical ways of surviving. Thus, all these buildings, white washed boxes with small windows popped up, People forgot about the modernism they were introduced to in the 1930’s, the style that most Lebanese architects indulged in during the 50’s and 60’s and the war re-introduced the Lebanese to vernacular architecture. Countless buildings were built without the consent of architects, the luxury apartments of Hamra and Aschrafieh were tampered; refugees either rebuilt destroyed parts of the house with the available materials or sealed the large stained glass windows with cement.

Dar Al Sayad - 1954, Polish architect Karl Schayer

Hotel Saint Georges - 1932, Antoine Tabet, and French Architects Jacques Poirrier, Georges Bordes, Andre Lotte

Some of these buildings still stand today, and people who built or modified them during the war may not have realized at the time but they have influenced the new generation tremendously. Some have used these buildings as canvases to showcase their art (graffiti), others view them as constant reminders of our country’s tragic history, and the majority (unconsciously or consciously) ignores their presence everyday.

It is interesting to view these buildings as accessible sculptures or follies, maybe open up one of these buildings to the masses to reignite the architectural experience of living in a house torn by war and depravity, force people to think of their homes today with the panoramic views of the Mediterranean sea, the Roche Bobois couches, and the spacious corridors leading from one naturally lit room to another and now re-imagine their home as the house they are touring, dark, damp and void.

People should stop ignoring the past misfortunes, they should stop tearing down every single building damaged by war and face the truth of their past in a ‘matter of fact’  manner. By using some or maybe even one building as a museum or an art installation that narrates the tale of the fifteen-year civil war. Maybe then political and religious conflicts that define our lives would seem more trivial.

These are a few examples in Hamra, on Michel Chiha Street:

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