Spread from Abandoned Dwellings: A History of Beirut by Gregory Buchakjian

By Corinne Martin

Gregory Buchakjian’s book Abandoned Dwellings: A History of Beirut gives a new perspective towards the city and extends an appeal to reclaim it

Beirut has had its fair share of war, stunted growth, social and economic catastrophes and migratory movements over the past century. The city has built its character by being destroyed and rebuilt, by being broken and regenerated. In his latest book, Abandoned Dwellings: A History of Beirut, art historian and visual artist Gregory Buchakjian presents Beirut’s abandoned dwellings alongside a collection of archives and testimonies and a series of nostalgic photographs from within those spaces, where the subjects are surrounded by mounds of the rubbish that has remained.

Front cover of Abandoned Dwellings: A History of Beirut by Gregory Buchakjian
Front cover of Abandoned Dwellings: A History of Beirut by Gregory Buchakjian

“Most abandoned houses are a result of people leaving the city not because they want to leave. They are either forced to leave militarily or the owners have paid them a compensation to leave. Others can no longer afford the new staggering rents and move outwards to other neighbourhoods like Sid el Boushrieh or Khalde. As a result, the city is being emptied from its inhabitants,” says Buchakjian about the reasons for people abandoning their houses in Beirut.

Spread from Abandoned Dwellings: A History of Beirut by Gregory Buchakjian
Spread from Abandoned Dwellings: A History of Beirut by Gregory Buchakjian

Political and social turmoil, deterioration and heritage are an integral part of Buchakjian’s research and are among the issues discussed in his book. He examines the transformation of the city and its heritage starting with the infamous “battle of the hotels” in Downtown Beiruts and how luxury establishments were converted into strongholds. He explores the demarcation line, which divided the city into two and then focuses on places where people were imprisoned and executed. He concludes the book with the informal developments that often resulted from migratory movements and hostilities.

Spread from Abandoned Dwellings: A History of Beirut by Gregory Buchakjian
Spread from Abandoned Dwellings: A History of Beirut by Gregory Buchakjian

Among Buchakjian’s abandoned Beirut dwellings is the Dimitri Tarazi House located in Ashrafieh, Furn el-Hayek. Built in the early 19th century, this traditional structure arranged around a courtyard was home to Dimitri Tarazi, founder of a dynasty of craftsmen of Middle Eastern furniture, known today as Maison Tarazi. Another of the abandoned dwellings is the Excelsior Hotel in Minet el Hosn, which was in the past celebrated for its legendary nightclub, Les Caves Du Roy. It closed during the battle of the hotels during the 1970s, was then squatted by refugees in the 1990s and kept deteriorating afterwards.

Spread from Abandoned Dwellings: A History of Beirut by Gregory Buchakjian
Spread from Abandoned Dwellings: A History of Beirut by Gregory Buchakjian

Buchakjian’s survey of abandoned buildings in Beirut, with the collection of archives and the photographic scenes presented in his book, gives a new perspective towards the city and in many ways extends an appeal to reclaim it.

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

selections-arts-logo

SELECTIONS is a platform for the arts, focusing on the Arab World.

Selections editorial presents a quarterly print magazine and weekly online publication with high quality content on all subjects related to Art and Culture. Full of world-leading artworks, exquisite brand imagery, original creative illustrations and insightful written articles.
Selections Viewing Rooms presents carefully curated online art shows aiming not only to shed light on contemporary art executed by living artists, but also for viewers to buy contemporary fine art, prints & multiples, photography, street art and collectibles.
Discover the previous and current shows here.
Cultural Narratives foundation is an extensive collection that is travelling the world by leading established and emerging talents aiming to reflect the culture of the region in their works.

RANDOM READS
Hanaa Malallah Portrait

HANAA MALALLAH | DIARY OF AN ARTIST IN INTERESTING TIMES

Taking up this issue’s theme of ‘The Diary of an…

Sultan bin Faha Portrait

SULTAN BIN FAHAD | DIARY OF AN ARTIST IN INTERESTING TIMES

Taking up this issue’s theme of ‘The Diary of an…

Crime and Punishment, After Dostoievski. 2017. Courtesy of the artist.

SACHA ABOU KHALIL | DIARY OF AN ARTIST IN INTERESTING TIMES

Taking up this issue’s theme of ‘The Diary of an…

Nabil Anani, Olive Groves #7, 2020. Mixed media on canvas, 100 x 125 cm. Courtesy of Zawyeh Gallery.

NABIL ANANI | DIARY OF AN ARTIST IN INTERESTING TIMES

Taking up this issue’s theme of ‘The Diary of an…

Mohammad Bozorgi, Untitled, 2008-2013. Ink on paper, 21 x 29 cm. Courtesy of Ayyam Gallery

WORKS ON PAPER – WINTER EDITION

WORKS ON PAPER – WINTER EDITION

Karine Boulanger, Murmures Entre Les Branches, 2015. Oil on canvas, 130 x 195 cm. Courtesy of Galerie Janine Rubeiz.

WHY I MOVED TO THE COUNTRYSIDE

Climate change and the search for a healthier and more…

november 2020

07julAll Day15novVirtual EventConstructing a Dream

10sepAll Day14novJORGE TACLA | SEÑAL DE ABANDONO

19sepAll Day12novMOHAMED AHMED IBRAHIM| MEMORY DRUM