Lebanon will participate for the first time at the Venice Biennale of Architecture under the theme “The Place that Remains”. The Biennale will run from May 26 to November 25, 2018 and is now in its 16th edition.
Details of the project were given at a press conference held yesterday under the patronage of the Lebanese Minister of Culture and organized in cooperation with the Order of Engineers and Architects.
The press conference, which took place at the Order’s premises, was held in the presence of the Minister of Culture H.E. Dr. Ghattas Khoury, the Minister of Defense H.E. Mr. Yaacoub Sarraf, the Italian ambassador H.E. Mr. Massimo Marotti, MP Ghassan Moukhaiber, Director of the Geographic Affairs of the Lebanese Army General Moustapha Mouslimani, the President of the Order of Engineers and Architects Mr. Jad Tabet, and the Curator of the Lebanese Pavilion, architect Hala Younes, and representatives from participating universities and institutions.
In his speech, the Minister of Culture stated: “We ought to applaud this project which is the result of the joint efforts of a number of institutions. I hope that this cooperation will serve as an example to all of us – politicians, businessmen and researchers – proving that constructive support always pays off. He added: “With the Order of Engineers and Architects, we are preserving what remains of the historic buildings in Beirut and in all regions. We have studied the question of setting up committees to draw up a general inventory in all regions”. He also pointed out that the Law on the Protection of Historic Buildings promulgated by the Cabinet might be unfair to some owners, but that it was the only way to compensate them. He also hoped that the cooperation between the ministry and the Order would lead to the liberation of the non-historical and non-archaeological buildings.
He concluded by wishing success to this national project.
H.E. Ambassador Marotti said “The participation of Lebanon for the first time at the Venice Biennale of Architecture is very important and will have a double impact. It will stimulate the academic debate on urbanism and will magnify at international level the Lebanese architects’ views and contribution on the key topic of the quality of public space. He added “The 2018 edition of the Biennale focuses on “Freespace”, the art of improving the quality of the space not occupied by buildings or constructions. A real challenge for the success of the contemporary urban civilization all over the world.”
Jad Tabet said: “In a country like Lebanon, possibly the only country where urban planning is based on the hypothesis that building on any ground is possible, the paradox is reflected by the fact that this planning generates urban chaos and does not organize the lands. This creates a unified scene where the eyes move from one pattern to another identical one. No law is enforced except the law of land speculation. This unified scene, which tends to erase the diversity, specificity and character of each region, now dominates what can be described as the useful part of the Lebanese territory.”
The Lebanese Pavilion
The project has been developed by Hala Younes, curator of the Pavilion and Assistant Professor of Architecture at the Lebanese American University (LAU).
Hala Younes said: “The exhibition aims to shed light on the un-built land, their cultural characteristics and their prospects in improving the constructed environment and its living conditions as well as the architect’s role in the construction process and the resulting impact on the culture of the land.” And she added: “The purpose of the exhibition is to create knowledge and awareness on the status of the land. We are counting on developing knowledge of the territory in Lebanese society in order to become familiar with it and defend its value because our heritage is not only architectural but also geographical and landscaped”.
The Lebanese Pavilion will gather many individuals, architects, artists, researchers, and Lebanese institutions under the theme ‘The Place that Remains’. It involves a reflection on the built environment through a reflection on the unbuilt land, and the possible visions for the future of our national territory and landscape. The focus will be on Nahr Beirut (Beirut River) and its watershed.
The project explores the preconditions for architecture through assessing its bedrock and the challenges protagonists face, such as the fragile nature of territory, scarcity of resources and commodification.
In the work, the territory is rendered visible, requiring the tangible/sensitive reality to be brought back to the centre, whereby it becomes possible to identify, inventory, list and shed light on ‘The Place that Remains’ and the conditions required for its preservation.
The format chosen for the project is a combined 3D relief map, landscape photography and video surveillance, while the watershed setting allows its creators to ensure that the resources remain the key focus.
In addition, the pavilion will feature the work of six photographers. Selected by the curator and professors from Notre Dame University (NDU), the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts (ALBA), and the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK), the photographers are: Gregory Buchakjian; Catherine Cattaruzza, Gilbert Hage, Hoda Kassatly, Ieva Sauvargaite, and Talal Khoury (video).
Historical photographs will also be on display, compiled from various collections, including: the Association pour la Protection des Sites et Anciennes Demeures au Liban (APSAD); the Fouad Debbas Collection; La Photothèque de la Bibliothèque Orientale à l’Université Saint Joseph (USJ); the Heinz Gaube Collection at Notre Dame University (NDU); and aerial photographs at the Lebanese Army.
Project contributors and supporters
This project has been drafted with the support of the Department of Urbanism at the Lebanese University (LU), the School of Architecture and Design at the Lebanese American University (LAU), the Arab Center for Architecture (ACA), and the Lebanese Landscape Association (LELA). The Department of Geography at Saint Joseph University (USJ) and the Directorate of Geographic Affairs of the Lebanese Army have also contributed significantly to help create the giant territorial 3D model.
March 2018 Conference
Within the framework of Lebanon’s participation in the biennale, a conference will be organized under the theme ‘The Place that Remains, recounting the Unbuilt Territory’ at Lebanese American University (LAU) on March 23 and 24, 2018.
The conference will explore a range of topics related to the theme, from the role of unbuilt territory as host to our dreams and means through which we can achieve our expectations to its status as a precious resource for securing quality living.
Venice Biennale of Architecture
The Venice Foundation, one of the world’s most prestigious cultural institutions held its first international architecture exhibition in 1980. Since then, the Venice Biennale of Architecture has evolved to become one of the most highly regarded and eagerly anticipated events of its kind.
The Artistic Directors designated by the Venice Foundation for the 2018 edition, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara (Grafton Architects), have chosen Freespace as theme for the 16th International Architecture Exhibition. They have invited participants from every national pavilion to bring to Venice their Freespace, so “together we may reveal the diversity, specificity and continuity in architecture based on people, place, time, history, to sustain the culture and relevance of architecture on this dynamic planet”.