My biggest love, deepest heartbreak, My dearest, Beirut. I’ve always wanted to write about you, always, but not like that. I wanted to write about your charm. and I wanted to write about your heritage and your talents, but can I still? My beautiful city, broken, torn, buried, silenced, and scarred. do you still feel like rising again this time? Do you think we’re worthy of you? I hope.
August 4th 2020, a date no Lebanese could ever forget. A city turned to dust. Huge amounts of ammonium nitrate which were stored at the Beirut port, explode, creating the effects of a nuclear bomb. All gone to ashes. hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries, and hundreds of thousands left homeless. Although far before the explosion, Lebanon was already in a very desperate state since 2019 (hyperinflation, poverty rate increases 50%, socio-political instability, and lastly a global pandemic …), but that explosion was more than we can take.
Being a Beiruty myself, words fall short as I describe what I have felt or seen post this tragedy. visiting my hometown/ city after this incident I could see all the vibrant streets and family houses I had built so many memories completely unrecognizable. Families missing family members, children traumatized. This is unfair.
We deserve much more than a lump in our throat just thinking of you, our dearest Beirut. You have left us voiceless. But us architects, we are here to build, and we are here to restore. Rebuild memories, and restore heritage. And what an honor it is for us to build the city that has long built us.
For you Beirut, a million times.
Gaëlle Bazergi – AIAS Middle East Ambassador
AIAS Takes Action, Time and Again
Seeing Beirut broken was and still is overwhelming. The bar where we enjoy drinking, the restaurant with our favorite Japanese food, the site where our design project took place, the streets where we held painting workshops, all vanished within seconds. The explosion haunted our dreams, dictated our actions and forced us to pause our plans. We took few days to mourn, to bury the victims and wound our scars. We carried our losses and pain, and head to help those who couldn’t keep walking due to the weight of their ache. The 4th of August is a day that made us re-question everything, truly everything.
Yet, with the absence of governmental support, we couldn’t but put our pain aside, plan, and take action. Indeed, the youth formed Beirut’s last breath. The third day, LAU AIAS gathered its forces. Contacts with NGOs working on the ground were built. The architecture database, a project of the 2019-2020 board formed an asset to all the NGOs for assessment purposes. Forms and datasheets were organized to plan the work on the ground. As such, we participated in cleanups in a hospital, streets, and apartments in the areas of Gemayzeh. On another day, we decided to help an NGO with measurements for the damaged doors and windows in areas such as Saifi and Karantina. Simultaneously, an initiative was lunched to team up with a wood company, crafting furniture for the damaged houses. AIAS members proved to be active citizens, to care about their fellow citizens’ losses, and to think of solutions to all the problems that surround them. Sleep formed a luxury. Every minute that we spent, not on the ground, increased the guilt that we felt. We knew that this time could be spent helping a grandmother to protect her house from falling, or a poor child to secure his lunch. Beirut, the Bride of the middle east, fell victim of multiple hunters. Our Beirut, Switzerland of the middle east, Paris of the Levant, was transformed once again, to rubbles and blood.
We cannot stand seeing our Beirut veiled in black. We are keen to deploy all of our expertise and energy to help those in need. As architects we understand spaces and the effect of the latter on one’s life conditions. Efforts are still put in place to secure sustainable volunteering opportunities to all of our AIAS LAU members with NGOs in the upcoming months. AIAS Lebanon formed a valuable part of action taking and decision making in the middle of the atrocity that the country went through. We are sure that Beirut, the phoenix, will rise from the ashes once again, stronger and more beautiful than ever before, and we will make sure to be part of removing the ashes.
Finally, we want to thank the AIAS International family that stood by our side, with their warm words and prayers. Your support formed a beacon of hope, from which we took the energy to continue with our work. All of our gratitude goes to Portland State University, who threw a fundraiser to help us keep going, amidst the economic, health, political crisis and Beirut’s atrocity
Vanessa Abou Harb – AIAS LAU President
How You Can Help
Portland State University’s AIAS Chapter has organized a fundraiser to keep our international friends going.
The goal of the fundraiser is to be able to cover the cost of membership for every single member of both of Lebanon’s chapters – Lebanese American University (LAU) and Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK). Additional funds will be split evenly between the two chapters, to fund their work with local NGO’s and support the work each chapter does with municipalities to respond to Lebanese architectural and urban problems. Most importantly, your funds will keep us connected across nations, and give these chapters and their members the recognition and support they deserve.
The National Office is very excited about the initiative and so proud to see chapters supporting one another in difficult times. We will do everything we can to support our members as they face challenges at home and abroad.