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Beirut Hedonist Urbanism

Steven Holl Architects | Vladimir Djurovic | L.E.F.T. Architects | DW5 Bernard Khoury | Machado and Silvetti Asociates

Beirut Hedonist Urbanism
By Conrad-Bercah -

Crossroads between three continents. Gateway to the East. Paris of the East. The conglomeration that goes by the name of Beirut seems to have a built-in capacity for stimulating the word mint that pre- dates globalization. As of late a new label is becoming increasingly popular for the capital of Lebanon: “Las Vegas of the Med”. Everyone seems to agree: a new hedonism has found hospitality on Lebanese shores. Is this hedonism a reflection of Beirut’s mythical joie de vivre? Or is it induced by Beirut’s new urbanism? Is it possible to theorize such parallelism? And, if so, to what ultimate metaphor does it aspire? Parallelisms are always problematic yet the scale at which the phenomenon is occurring is so overwhelming that it must mean something. Could Beirut be the final arena of the cultural disconnect between words and what they imply? Confusion between languages, references and constituencies that beget greater semantic confusion? Or rather an agreed-upon meaning of words such that within the same conglomeration, different people use different words to give a name to the same thing? Is this due to a lack of authenticity? Or to nostalgia for things lost? Or both? Identity gets blurred. Or stripped. What is left?

The conglomeration that goes by the name of Beirut is experiencing a building boom that has been going on for four decades, with dramatic acceleration in the last. Both size and numbers have gone through the roof. It is a boom that has no precedent and knows little pause. Nothing seems to be able to stop it. Terrorist attacks, pandemic viruses, political instability, financial crisis, volcanic clouds: all events that in the first decade of the XXI century were (normally) held responsible for provoking global crisis in the rest of the world have not as yet affected the Beirut building carnage. This makes Beirut a unique case study. Not even civil war managed to halt this feverish activity, which, to the credit of...

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