A Call to retain Beirut Built Heritage

01 October 2020


From the first moments following the Beirut Blast, it became one of the priorities for Beirut Arab University to engage in the process of removing the destruction and to mobilize its community to offer the people in the affected neighborhoods of Beirut the help and support they needed.
Through its students, employees, and the academic staff, the University formed groups of helpers that participated in the removal of rubble and in surveying the damage that had befallen the port area, including the archaeological buildings in the old neighborhoods. The real danger is that the rescue plan for the damaged historic buildings is not expedited. The plan requires the displacement of the residents who do not have the capacity to rehabilitate these buildings due to the sensitivity of the origin. Rescuing these buildings also needs expert interventions to preserve their identity and value. The Order of Engineers and Architects in Beirut has taken steps to develop a plan to survey and distinguish buildings of an archaeological nature, and to provide information to those concerned with cultural heritage in general and built heritage in particular. According to the third weekly report issued by the Order of Engineers and Architects dated on 9/9/2020, 14.1% of heritage buildings within the surveyed area are at high risk of collapse/damage, while 11.3% are at mid-risk of collapse/damage. This indicates that nearly a quarter of the surveyed historic buildings in the port vicinity were damaged by the blast.
The University spares no efforts, equipment and resources needed for the Urban Lab,  such as a 3D scanning mechanism. Further, researchers in the field of preserving cultural heritage, including architects and engineers are brought together, to contribute with official and non-official bodies, such as the Beirut Municipality and the Ministry of Culture represented by the General Directorate of Antiquities, the Order of Engineers and Architects, and civil societies, in the development of the necessary engineering plans and the proposition of solutions to save historic buildings that are at risk while preserving the character of historic Beirut. In terms of resilience, the post-disaster urban and architectural reconstruction and rehabilitation of the cultural built heritage in Beirut should be included in any sustainable planning agenda of the city. For a traumatized society after disastrous events, such as the port blast, such urgent conservation practices will give a sense of localness and recreate the inhabitants’ collective memories concerning the image of their city, which promotes healing on a mid-term plan.
The interventions for the structural stabilization of heritage buildings that are at risk are among the priorities that necessitate the cooperation of all the different sectors in the Lebanese society. In addition, the partnership between the different sectors of society and civil organizations reflects community awareness and provides the best model for saving and preserving heritage. Keen on seeing all these plans realized as soon as possible, Beirut Arab University is keen on contributing to all the stages of the process, beginning with the damage assessment, through to the intervention phase.

Prof. Amr Galal Al-Adawi
President of Beirut Arab University, Lebanon

Architecture and Planning Journal, APJ, celebrates its 26th volume issue 2 - 2020 - in synchronization with passing 60 years on founding Beirut Arab University in Lebanon. For further information, you can access the link below