Beirut, Beirut

author: Hashim Sarkis, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University
published: Feb. 22, 2014,   recorded: April 2002,   views: 1899
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Description

Through a series of cases in the history of the reconstruction of Beirut (from 1990 to the present), Hashim Sarkis illustrates a number of points and characteristics about Beirut's resilience.

The type of resilience that Beirut exhibits is shaped to a great extent by its disproportionate scale in the economy and politics of the country. It is more "Beirut, Beirut" than "Beirut, Lebanon." Reconstruction is more time consuming than destruction, and by the time we get to the reconstruction of buildings, their place in both memory and in space usually shifts. There is also considerable tension between architecture and infrastructure when it comes to reconstruction, and infrastructure usually wins. The historical burden of preservation overwhelms the first phases of reconstruction and tends to dim innovative design thinking in the later stages. Different approaches (restoration, renovation, rehabilitation) and mechanisms (private, public, collaborative) coexist in a competitive manner. There is a lag effect between the planned and the unplanned aspects of reconstruction, a dynamic that is often stronger than either one. Places hold a strong character that survives destruction, but character is not always expressed in physical form. While the marks on destruction appear strongest in architecture, the expressions of continuity, reconciliation, and resilience are stronger (and more effective) in other media such as novels (e.g. Beirut, Beirut; The Water Ploughman) and films (e.g.: Beirut ya Beirut; West Beirut).

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