Architect Annabel Karim Kassar has brought a life-size recreation of one of old Beirut’s Ottoman-Venetian homes to the V&A Museum in London.
Part of an exhibition entitled The Lebanese House: saving a home, saving a city, the installation pays homage to the many historic homes destroyed or damaged in the 2020 explosion – caused by badly stored ammonium nitrate chemicals in the Lebanese capital’s port.
Kassar has created an exact replica of the facade of one of these houses, known as Bayt K, which she is currently restoring, as a way of exploring how Beirut’s architectural history can be preserved. It features a set of triple arcade windows, which are considered a hallmark of traditional Lebanese buildings.
Visitors can further immerse themselves in Beirut culture via the exhibition’s Liwan – a new interpretation of the salons that often inhabit entrance ways in Lebanese homes. A trio of documentary films exploring the aftermath of the explosion are also being shown, as well as a digital library of classic architectural elements found in Beirut.
Kassar describes the city’s architectural heritage of being ‘in grave peril’ as a result of the explosion but hopes her installation sounds a note of hope. She says it offers ‘important lessons in urban restoration and renovation that can be applied elsewhere’ as well can potentially galvanise local and international communities to protect their ‘common urban heritage’.
‘The Lebanese House’ is on display until 21 August at London’s V&A Museum.