The world’s most unusual war memorial? Beirut’s tank monument is 20 years old

Peace

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this month is one of the most unusual structures in the Middle East – the Monument for Peace in Beirut.

Constructed from concrete with Soviet-era T55 tanks, mortars, heavy artillery and armoured personel carriers embedded into its 30m high form it is the work of French based architect Armand Fernandez.

Officially called Hope for Peace it is also known as the Tank Monument and is situated in Yarse, close to the Lebanese defence ministry buildings.

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On its unveiling in 1995 Fernandez said: “What embedding objects in something else does is to change the time of the object. Instead of a present object, you have a fossil of the object, as you might find an organic fossil in a rock formation … Objects are by their nature rather impermanent, and I like that, and I also like fossils.”

The end of the 15-year Lebanese civil war in 1990 meant that the country’s army was left with a huge excess of useless and clapped-out military hardware, including tanks and artillery which had helped to level the centre of Beirut.

So military chiefs willing allowed some to be hoisted on to Fernandez’s 10-storey concrete pyramid.

Each tracked or wheeled vehicle and mobile artillery piece was welded to the interior structure amid sandbags and concrete, the armour then painted in fresh camouflage paint once the concrete had set.

The architect outlined his philosophy when it comes to design when the monument was completed: “A society that is well equipped with art is in a better position to survive and flourish than one that is not.”

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