B E I R U T
In March 2107 I was invited to participate in an exhibition in Beirut. “The New Normal” was an exhibition organized by artists Murat Adash and Hiba Farhat. It took place in “The Hangar”, the cultural platform of UMAM Documentation & Research. That place is located in Hâret Hraïk in the southern suburbs of Beirut, in a Shi’a district. I was staying in the North, in Mar Mikhaël. During the civil war, the district was and still in the christian part of the city. A residential and commercial neighborhood. Very lively spot in Beirut, full of cafes, restaurants, art galleries and fashionable shops. And it is where Emmanuel Macron the French president was photographed during his controversial visit after the devastating explosion of Beirut.
As an architect and as always; the best way for me to discover a new city, is to walk. Long and endless walks guided by an old school printed map. It is how I build my own experience of every city I visit. It was my first time in Lebanon physically. But it is difficult to claim that you will discover Beirut from scratch. I have visited it several times through photographs, cinema, internet, my researches as an architect and through books, articles and history readings. But I could not understand the situation of Beirut until I have visited it and roamed its streets aimlessly.
”The identity cannot be compartmentalized; it cannot be split in halves or thirds, nor have any clearly defined set of boundaries. I do not have several identities, I only have one, made of all the elements that have shaped its unique proportions” Amin Maalouf explains. But this was not what I have seen in Beirut. Through my long walks I have seen several fragmented cities trying to live together in one exhausted body. By only observing the urban and the architecture of the city I could hear voices of many individuals and groups who are striving for the need to belong.
Here are some photographs of my observations on Beirut. These are photographs of no captions nor explanations, that demonstrate the essential theme of the city “ The quest for identity”