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Beirut sniper’s nest now monument to resilience

Beit Beirut, a former sniper’s nest that gained notoriety during the Lebanese Civil War, is being transformed into a monument to the resilience of the city and its people

Beit Beirut has been visited by Paris mayor, Ann Hidalgo (pictured above).
Beit Beirut has been visited by Paris mayor, Ann Hidalgo (pictured above).

A former sniper’s nest in Beirut, which became notorious during the Lebanese Civil War, is being transformed into a monument to the resilience of the city and its people.

Beit Beirut, or ‘the House of Beirut’, is being redeveloped as part of a joint project between Lebanon and France.

The site was visited by Paris mayor Ann Hidalgo, who inspected the redevelopment in the Beirut neighbourhood of Sodeco.

The Arabic word for ‘hell’ has been written on Beit Beirut’s walls as a stark reminder of the conflict, which lasted from 1975 to 1990 and claimed an estimated 250,000 lives.

Originally designed by architect Youssef Afandi Aftimos in 1924, the building was constructed in an Ottoman style with Art Deco and Rococo elements. Two further storeys were added to the structure in 1932 by Fouad Kozah.

Previously, Beit Beirut was home to the wealthy Barakat family, whose history will be told in the museum via manuscripts and photographs. Also on display will be graffiti etched into the walls by snipers, whose stories will be documented through interviews conducted with survivors of the war.

Architect Youssef Haider, who is overseeing the restoration work, said: “We didn’t do our memorial duty for our history. We just went from general amnesty to general amnesia. In this project, the idea was to preserve all the traces of time.”

Campaigner Mona Hallak, who has fought for years to preserve the building, added: “It’s not a museum of war. It’s a museum of memory of the city, including the war, because that was a big chunk of our modern history.”

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Construction Week - Issue 754
Nov 23, 2019