For 150 years, Beirut has experienced successive periods of unbridled growth, war, economic and social crisis and migratory flows. It is against this background – of unceasing populating, destruction, rebuilding, disintegration and recomposition – that Gregory Buchakjian wrote, from 2009 to 2016, on a doctoral thesis on neglected buildings vowed to inevitable demolition, coupled with an artistic approach to the same phenomenon.
The research included the utopian attempt to inventory this building stock: nearly 750 residential buildings, hotels and houses scattered throughout the city were listed in a database. Parallel with this, the author produced photographic documentation, collected testimonies and, with Valérie Cachard, gathered from out of the rubble hundreds of official documents, photographs, postcards, greeting cards, letters and other personal effects, revealing the lives of the former inhabitants.
The exhibition circuit alternated the documentary aspect, in the form of an overview of the architectural typologies and an investigation of a specific place, with a performance approach via images in which people inhabit again neglected spaces, and a video in which Buchakjian and Cachard breathe life into the archives collected in these places slowly falling into ruin.
The exhibition also included a work by Fouad Elkoury and was accompanied by the publication in limited edition of a text by Oliver Rohe.