|picture courtesy of al@mashriq http://almashriq.hiof.no/lebanon/900/910/919/beirut/greenline/panoramas/big/pcd3721_13-23.jpg|
The Barakat Building was designed and built in the 1920s by the Lebanese architect Youssef Aftimus. In the 1930s two story were added to the house. The building is built in the Ottoman revivalist style with Deir el Qamar limestone.
|image courtesy of al@mashriq|
Today the plans for the building are in limbo. We still wait and wonder.What will happen to this skeleton on the Green Line? Hallak, one of the key activists in preserving the building, has big plans for the museum. The building is planned to become the first memory museum. Whose memories and whose representation of it and how remain vague to the public. No one in Lebanon can doubt the need for a Memory Museum, whether we are ready or not is a different topic.
Beit Beirut's websites keeps this issue quite vague, instead it highlights several programmatic entities to be housed in the building, http://www.beitbeirut.org/english/bldgfutureen.html, . These include a library, a lecture space, an auditorium, leisure facility and a museum. Yet I wonder what will this program add to the building and its space and what will it take away. In such a unique architectural structure, history and location and a city that lacks green and public spaces why don't we just let this building be. Is it possible for a museum to just be a structure that people can visit, picnic in, hang out .... Do we have to over enclose, control and program everything.
The World Health Organization has established indicators for what makes a city healthy. It specifically established a metric that links open air to public health with an international quota of 10 square meters per person as a benchmark for healthy cities.
A brief look at Beiruts public green space shows the lack of them. Ironically the overgrown green line during the civil war is the greenest Beirut has been since the war!
I have to admit that the fight for the preservation of this building was unique and inspiring but the over programming of the building worries me. I feel the skeleton as a public green space is a much stronger memorial to a conflictual history we remain divided upon. Yet sharing the space of the skeleton as a public space on the green line might allow informal interaction and discussion of history of place, space and the city that noone has succesfly created yet. also it will give the city a semi enclosed public space it so requires.
WHO green area indicators, http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_information/indicators/docs/projmega_en.pdf, http://www.healthycities.ncku.edu.tw/eng/pointer-1.htm