Preserving the architectural heritage: the difficult role of the politicians

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2012-04-04

Regarding the role of the State in developing an urban planning policy, Habib Debs, architect and active member of the APSAD (Association for the Protection and Safeguarding of Old Buildings) evokes the "Republic of traders" that governs the country and explains in order to denounce the deficiencies of the government that "In Lebanon, it is the landowners who have the real power, they tend to build as much as possible on the lands they own in central Beirut and the politicians encourage them to do so."

Concerning this fact and without justifying the race to profitability or the lack of proactive legislation, Mousbah Rajab (architect and professor at the Institute of Fine Arts at the Lebanese University) asks : "In a state where the concerns of Lebanese people are so tightly linked to the economic and political situation in the country, how is it possible that the public space, the urban fabric, do not suffer from the chronic instability? ".

The impact of the war on Lebanese architectural landscape

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2012-02-21

We already said that the “house with the three arcades” marked Lebanon's architecture. However, it was only an architectural phase and the “photography” of the country continued to change after its appearance. Those changes were due to different factors. War is one of them.

In the 1920's, the “house with the three arcades” takes on new heights and is elevated a few more levels; under the French mandate, it becomes a small building enriched with decorations and takes on ochre colours.

Focus on the "house with three arcades"

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2012-01-15

In the collective consciousness, “the house with three arcades” probably constitutes the symbol of architecture in Lebanon. Also called "house with a central hall" due to the triple arcade opening on the heart of the house, it is generally of cubic shape, rising on 1 or 2 levels, built in a private garden and is characterized by its pyramid-shaped roof covered with red tiles. In Beirut, those houses are now threatened by real estate projects. But you can still find some of them, for example in Achrafieh. Why and how were they born? Let’s go back to the circumstances that preceded their appearance.
We are in the Ottoman1850 era; Beirut is transformed into a provincial capital and due to an increase in commercial flows with Europe, becomes the cosmopolitan metropolis that deals with the West.

It is a period of political stability, the heyday of the industry of silk, the era of population moves, of cultural and artistic exchange with Europe, of the adoption of a different lifestyle. Meanwhile, Istanbul, the Ottoman Empire's capital enacts urban regulations, a construction law, and adopts development patterns that Beirut will benefit from.

Hasn’t your Mama taught you any better?

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2011-12-30

Hasn’t your Mama taught you any better? I mean seriously lately alcohol has been bringing your worst of people, and I wonder what happening to people? Do I have to watch and witness your crying outburst or your drama scenes when you’re drunk? People are failing lately to understand that if you are drunk it gives you no excuse to act in such a crazy manner.

Many bartenders lately have shared with us stories of what they witness on daily basis of strange behavior and people coming out of their usual character due to alcohol consumption. Some stories are wild, while others are expected and some are too extreme to be true.

The poet house

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2011-09-12

Far from the eyes on the heights of Achrafieh, the house of the French poet Alphonse de Lamartine is located, where he lived from September 1832 till April 1833 and which inspired him in writing part of his book “Voyage en Orient” published in 1835.

Not far from Sassine square, Mar Charbel Street has one of the poet’s oldest houses. When he decided to come to Lebanon, Lamartine was already well known in France thanks to the success of his book “Méditations Poétiques”.

At that time, the Orient and its mysteries have fascinated Western romantics, but his trip was also linked to Lamartine’s religious belief and the tuberculosis of his daughter Julia, for whom Beirut climate was recommended.

1m2 in Achrafieh!

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2011-08-26

In the streets of Achrafieh Karm El Zaytoun, ESPRIT is a small shop of 1m2, so small it cannot be observed without carefully scrutinizing.
The watchmaker is relegated to a corner behind his desk that divides the store into two equivalents areas, the desk is full of tools: batteries, pliers, screwdriver, screws, watches,...
Georges Daoud surrounded by a large number of watches and clocks, sits silently working.

His glasses resting on his nose, eyes fixed on a watch that he’s carefully trying to fix. George explained that the business is called "precision engineering", it is very difficult and requires great accuracy, determination and patience. "Before the war, we learned the profession in schools, but unfortunately it no longer exists," he remembers with nostalgia.

1m2 in Achrafieh!

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2011-08-26

In the streets of Achrafieh Karm El Zaytoun, ESPRIT is a small shop of 1m2, so small it cannot be observed without carefully scrutinizing.
The watchmaker is relegated to a corner behind his desk that divides the store into two equivalents areas, the desk is full of tools: batteries, pliers, screwdriver, screws, watches,...
Georges Daoud surrounded by a large number of watches and clocks, sits silently working.

His glasses resting on his nose, eyes fixed on a watch that he’s carefully trying to fix. George explained that the business is called "precision engineering", it is very difficult and requires great accuracy, determination and patience. "Before the war, we learned the profession in schools, but unfortunately it no longer exists," he remembers with nostalgia.

« Achrafieh has changed »

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2011-07-11

Bartiez, an old Armenian man cracks all day in his chair, waiting patiently for a kind costumer to enter his store. Before, he used to repair cars. But today, he is selling box of cigarettes because of the development and the new technology, to survive.

Despite his shyly eyes hidden by deep lines and big glasses, his look down
expresses a mixture of misfortune and misery. Since 1940, he has not left Achrafieh, this neighborhood for him, that has undergone many changes both in the relationship between its people and in terms of architecture and demographics.

"20x20. Beirut. Paris. Tunis. Barcelona": a book follows the journey of the 20x20 decorated tile

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2011-06-03

"20x20. Beirut. Paris. Tunis. Barcelona." The architect and designer Sophie Skaf has traced the journey of the 20x20 decorated tile, which had travelled from Franceto the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Levantine. The beautifully illustrated book intriguingly explains the history as well as the design, colour and production of the decorated tile. Carefully designed, the book is equallya pleasure for the eye as it is informative and meticulously researched. We met Sophie Skaf, the author of this book that was launched during an event held at Villa Audi on May 12.

What has inspired you to write this book?

Chistina Debs,or the refinement in the heart of Achrafieh

It is at the heart of Achrafieh that nests an enchanted jewelry. Christina Debs, jewelry designer catches you in her universe where diamonds and semiprecious stones meet with finesse and elegance gold and silver. Trained in the best French art schools, Christina has learned how to take advantage of her artistic background to achieve in creating a proper identity and offering a subtle blend between modernity and handcraft. « The jewel has been a part of my aspiration. While I was working in the marketing field, I was also interested in the trade of diamond. Once I have achieved my studies in art, it became obvious that I had to achieve what was deeply inside of me ».

To differentiate herself from the well renowned jewelers in the market, she decides to present a more refined work with a European touch. With her husband, she opens a first shop in Achrafieh, the Lebanese bourgeoisie rendezvous. The main concept: semiprecious stones set on gold and silver rings brighten up with diamonds sparkles. Christina is inspired by nature; the raw nature, savage and unrehearsed. It is during her walks or awakens dreams that the designer pictures her next collections.