Modern Ruins

Topic | Between Nostalgia and Reincarnation

Between Nostalgia and Reincarnation: In Quest of a City’s Identity

Keywords: Ruins – Modern Ruins – Dysfunctional Building – Memory – abandonment – historical witness – unfinished buildings –  Intangible Social Bonds – Program – Materiality

Abstract: Globalization has made the quest for identity, a growing topic in the architectural profession. Today, cities from all around the globe are perceived to be more and more uniform, where in fact each city has its own spirit that has been and is still being shaped through time. Factors that contribute to shaping this specific character may vary from one city to another, but the evolution is inevitable. Change alone is unchanging. A healthy change though is not random; it is roundly fostered on the past to inform the future. Cities can be defined by spaces and people, but also by the relation between the two. While both these elements exist ephemerally in this ever-aging world, spaces, and more precisely buildings, hold a stronger character that survives destruction and makes them live on after people. They henceforth become a media to tell something about the past- a story, an event. The aim of this paper is to explain how architecture can make the change of these buildings an informed one; a change that preserves yet enhances and strengthens the evolving identity of a city. It introduces adaptive reuse as a third alternative approach to pure preservation and tabula rasa, in the very specific context of Beirut, Lebanon – a war-torn city that is undergoing a random reconstruction phase in which important values are being neglected. The paper stresses on the necessity of applying adaptive reuse for a healthier transition in time, explaining the reasons why it is not so much of a popular strategy among the Lebanese society. While the absence of adaptive reuse is noticed, this paper mentions examples of the very few practices and ideas of adaptation among emerging architects.


Case Studies:

  •  Primary case study: Tripoli International fairground by Oscar Niemeyer, Lebanon
  •  Secondary case studies: El-Murr Tower in Beirut, Lebanon & The Yellow House, Museum and urban Cultural     Center, Beirut Lebanon
  • Other Supporting case study: The Art School in Cuba
By: Dana Hamdan