We’ve asked artists, architects and designers plus architectural students from LAU, to share with us their thoughts and ideas as they relate to their favorite cities, Utopian urban design and various life experiences. Here are their answers, along with original works that best reflect their passion, creativity and emotions.
Which is your current city and how would you describe it?
Beirut a city of contrasts, a city of all the possible and the impossible. Complete chaos making it so warm and captivating. Cosmopolitan and hermetic at the same time. European city but not quite, Oriental city but not quite. A city of extremes: you hate it or you love it. And you may hate it and love it at the same time. City with layers of memories. Sweet memories: the smell of the gardens in the morning, after a rainy night, the scent of flowers in the streets on a hot evening… jasmine, orange blossom, cologne. The colours of bougainvillea, the light in autumn, the birds’ songs, the thunderstorms of Beirut. Bitter ones: memories of war, sounds of explosions and death, destruction of buildings, of human lives, of nature, garbage, pollution, traffic jams, uncivilised behaviour.
Brief story that has marked you in your current city
Story 1: As a child during car drives, looking at the streets of Beirut, imagining new façades for “ugly” buildings, removing billboard ads, planting trees all the way. Story 2: Life in the city during the war. The brutal passage from peace and quiet to madness and violence, another way of living the city. Beirut is divided into two sectors. And between them a demarcation line, a no man’s land in which nature invades everything: walls, streets, roofs. It blooms and spreads creating a beautiful green line. Beauty in destruction, nature taking back its right in abandoned or destroyed cities. Story 3: What I see from my apartment. In 2003 I see all of Downtown, the Martyrs’ Square, the sea, the port and the mountains. I still see old Lebanese houses with their gardens. Today I only see buildings and towers. The rest is just memories and virtual pics on my computer.
Where do you position yourself in a world where culture is becoming global
I don’t position myself. Globalisation positions me, positions all of us. Pros and cons: I enjoy the fact that we are aware of everything (great or terrible) happening in the world, but I think globalisation is leading all cultures to becoming very similar. A kind of universal copy paste. I regret the loss of variety, uniqueness, identity.
How does it affect your work?
We are so exposed to everything all the time, constantly overwhelmed with images and information. There is no room left for imagination. The only way to have a clear mind is to shut down and look for inspiration elsewhere than in media. Look in the primitive, in the basics, in the roots.
Photos I’ve taken from my apartment, the environment that directly affects my day-to-day life, then Photoshop. And sketches, because of my training as an architect.
Create a greener city, a cleaner one. Use sun power, recycle. Give room to nature, let it invade all free space: grow on blind walls, on balconies, terraces, walkways, squares, streets, highways. Give more importance to non-consumable goods, ones not linked to profit. The right to breathe fresh air, flowers’ scents, to enjoy light, sun, unspoiled views, to drive roads with no billboards only natural landscape.
My ideal city would be a mix of Beirut for its contrasts, chaos, for its warmth, Paris for the preservation of its patrimony and culture, Istanbul for its geographical location and her importance in our collective memory, our culture, Singapore for its skyscrapers drowning in the jungle. A city that adapts to nature instead of adapting to our greed.