Today, the ‘Beiruti Houses’, those that survived the development pressures and perils of the past, stand as monuments for Beirut’s phenomenal rise and a reflection of the multilayered history of the 19th and 20th century. Instantly altering the face of Beirut, the scale of destruction and the extent of damage from the explosion can be witnessed on numerous heritage buildings that are grouped into heritage clusters.
These heritage clusters offer an intangible value that is handed down through generations. Carrying the memories of generations and a unique historical identity, these buildings represent Beirut’s rich history and culture. They offer the city and its inhabitants a sense of continuity in this fast changing world. Post-blast, the ongoing fight to protect and preserve these clusters gained momentum and amongst the rubble emerged a strengthened collective appreciation and awareness within the community.
While many from within Beirut and beyond, rallied to support the protection and preservation of Beirut’s heritage neighborhoods, there is a lack of a coordinated response from public institutions. Given this neglect and the extent of devastation on a human and physical level, BHI’s strategy aims to respond to this urgent need to preserve and protect heritage clusters. These clusters are identified in historically valued neighborhoods such as Ashrafieh, Geitawi, Gemmayzeh, Karantina, Mar Mikhael and Zokak el-Blat.
The BHI is positioned at the heart of the short term objectives of the rehabilitation process as well as part of a long term urban vision. With medium and long term action plans for the reconstruction and preservation of heritage, tangible and intangible, a unifying spirit is at the core of the initiative’s values. The short term (emergency works) are now completed, and we are now moving on to the mid-term reconstruction action plan.
BHI’s mission to protect heritage focuses on more than buildings and includes the socio-economic fabric of Beirut. From the outset, BHI set its ultimate goal to be the equitable and sustainable revitalization of devastated neighbourhoods, ones that have the highest concentration of heritage clusters. These belong to different eras that include Ottoman stone and red-tile houses, French Mandate walk-ups, and post-Independence early Modernist apartment buildings.
The objective of the Beirut Heritage Initiative is to safeguard the tangible and intangible heritage of Beirut and to take part in the reconstruction of the capital.
Therefore, BHI seeks to:
- Carry out urgent protective measures to prevent partial or total collapse
- Guarantee the buildings’ habitability, to preserve the social fabric
- Undertake restoration work as part of the preservation of the heritage
- Revitalize the economic activity of SMEs, craft and creative industries
- Provide and ensure a specialized training to construction professionals in order to safeguard the historic and traditional character of buildings.
WORKS AND MOBILIZATION
An initial assessment has been made by architects specialized in heritage from BBHR 2020 in the areas of Saifi, Gemmayzeh, Rmeil, Mar Mikhael, Medawar, Ashrafieh, Bashoura, and Zokak el Blat. Up until now, the assessment shows that:
Our scope of work will include the consolidation of heavily damaged buildings and the restoration/rehabilitation of moderately and lightly damaged buildings. Depending on resources and funds, site works might span over several months and even years.