About two years have passed since the explosion in the port area of Beirut. The blast killed more than 210 people, and about 7 thousand were injured. The blast destroyed many houses and caused massive damage to the structures and facades of some of the Middle East’s unique examples of 19th-century Ottoman-Venetian architecture.
French-Lebanese architect Annabelle Karim Kassar draws attention to the need for architectural restoration in Beirut with her new large installation called Lebanese House. Saving the House, Saving the City at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Responding in this way to the tragedy, Kassar set herself the task of restoring one of the most outstanding examples of Ottoman-Venetian architecture that has survived to this day in old Beirut.
The installation was created right in the museum by Beirut artisans (who flew to London specifically for the construction of the facade) and is a reconstruction of the most remarkable element of the building – a triple arched window. The copy is meant to make you feel like you are walking through the cobbled streets of the Lebanese capital.
Next to the triple arch is a traditional Middle Eastern seating area, called “leban” in Arabic and often located in the large hallways of such houses. It consists of comfortable floor cushions on which visitors can relax. Kassar invites them to imagine that they are in a high-ceilinged Beirut house, bathed in the Mediterranean sun through the glass arched windows.
The installation also includes a digital archive of architectural elements, including balconies, cornices, wooden trussed roofs, and painted ceilings, that make up Lebanon’s unique architectural language, influenced by Phoenician, ancient, Byzantine culture and history, intertwined in an ancient port city.
This is not Kassar’s first project to preserve Beirut’s architectural heritage. Previously, she won an international competition for projects to restore the old market quarter.