A ruined apartment block in Beirut is set to become a museum dedicated to the city’s years of civil war.
Beit Beirut – or Beirut House – is situated in the Lebanese capital’s Ashrafieh district and it dates from a period when the city was known as the “Paris of the East”, a centre for high living attracting the rich and famous.
But the four storey landmark on the corner of Independence Avenue and Damascus Road is pitted with bullet holes from a period when its strategic position on the Green Line – a no man’s land separating the Muslim and Christian parts of the city – made it a nest for snipers.
Built between 1924 and 1932 by architects Youssif Aftimos and Fouad Kozah its Ottoman and Art Deco influences are a testimony to the multi-cultural nature of the city in its prime.
The job of turning it into a centre for modern urban history has fallen to Youssef Haider who said: “I always considered the building as a living Lebanese person with traces we all have, some visible, some hidden. It’s beautiful and unique and has so much to tell us.”
When it opens next year following a $20 million renovation paid for by public funds the Museum of Memory will tell the story of the city as it was before 1975 when fighting broke out. It will document the history of the 15-year conflict and its aftermath.
The building’s first floor will be left frozen in time as it was during the war with the bullet and shell damaged plaster preserved.