In a place where the state of uncertainty is an everyday norm, where ways of seeking comfort from destruction has instigated, the growth of Beirut’s nightlife has become the culture of the indigenous population. Lebanon’s unstable political state has a 15-year history dating back to it’s civil war.
Has this violence and uncertainty generated a capital that won’t stop partying?
Introducing a popular subculture to iconic remains affected by the civil war has become a “trend” in Beirut in order to protest for cultural preservation to future developments.
It has become a refuge and comfort in the chaos of a politically unstable country where the Lebanese are re-defining a war-torn architecture or a space for the purpose of “freedom”. This ´state of uncertainty´ driven phenomena has been triggered by the rising number of developments eradicating existing heritage.
My interest lies in the exploration and experimentation of reusing existing devastated history to preserve the cultural heritage.
St. George Hotel, “once a symbol of Beirut’s golden age” was destroyed during the civil war and now left in a hollow shell with a protest sign against the company responsible for redeveloping Beirut; Solidere. Today, the terrace of St. George´s is the venue of pop-up clubs where partying underneath an abandoned hotel in the capital has become the new ‘normal’.
Photograph: Joseph Eid
2017 marks the 50th anniversary of England’s first conservation area. Concerned with the threat of accelerated redevelopment, The Civic Amenities Act ensured the legal protection of the conservation area: places of architectural, historic or environmental interest. After half a century, this popular legislative tool has created more than 9000 protected enclaves in England. Few would question the conservation areas’ original objective, but is its application still appropriate today?
My initial interrogation of the conservation area will be specific to ‘the village’. I am surrounded locally by over 100 fragments of villages that the local authority deem worthy of conserving. Rapid urbanisation, technological advances and socio-economic shifts, both challenge the validity of the villages’ existence and question the conservation area as an effective strategy.
To conserve, or not to conserve, the conservation area…
The brushstrokes of an amateur art restorer in a small village in Spain initially provoked outrage and horror, followed by numerous internet memes, and eventually a sharp increase in the number of curious tourists.
While there is an estimated number of 500,000 listed buildings on the NHLE, the other side of the coin is the annual approximate of 150 de-listing applications across the country for the buildings to take on new lives.
Through investigating the boundaries between conservation, restoration and creative reuse in the field of architecture and art, the project experiments on defining the alternative radical conservation strategies and practices as part of the contemporary architectural discourse in the UK.
Fresco Ecce Homoin the Sanctuary of Mercy church in Borja, Spain by Elías García Martínez (c 1930)
The attempted restoration by Cecilia Giménez (2012)
Ping pong tables, potted plants and colorful chairs, are highly surveilled objects able to hide a construction of a past branded for consumption and a construction of a future which has never been less public. As products of compromises between private corporations and local authorities, pseudo-public spaces offer a challenge in speculating – in legal, economic and architectural terms – on how to preserve something that we think we already have but don’t anymore, whilst preserving transformative forms of resistance.
I am interested in physical and ephemeral forms of resistance in order to challenge and exploit the increasingly blurry distinction or superimposition of public and private, domestic and corporate. Deliberate ‘incompleteness’, mirroring techniques and heterotopic spaces will be investigated, aiming for an activist conservation practice for an alternative space of heritage production.
Aspects of the city emerge through the human interpretation and manipulation of it’s governing parameters. Political, infrastructural and technological shifts in metropolitan life encourage unexpected by-products to materialise. They are the by-products of designed environments; the organic moments where collective intuition and human nature interfere with the urban framework. These moments should warrant preservation as they represent democratic innovation caused by an opportunistic population. Highlighting these ‘counter-grid trajectories’ should provide a collective insight into the challenges or opportunities presented by emerging parameters and future infrastructure.
With the worrying risk of a backward step in environmental policy as the UK leaves the EU, can we expect our government, who, only yesterday, squandered £370,000 of tax payer’s money fighting a losing court battle with ClientEarth, to protect us from ecological spoil? This government often prioritises economic growth over the protection of our landscapes, but what if ecological conservation could also provide opportunities for community rejuvenation and employment in marginalised areas. Could this then incentivise government to agree that ecological conservation is integral to the country’s future development?
Using the issue of historic toxic landfill sites in Britain, this project will attempt to provide an example of progressive ecological conservation. Through quarrying the waste from these landfill sites, could the local environments be saved and at the same time the resultant voids become new public spaces and infrastructure for underfunded communities? Or can the waste itself be transformed into a building resource for much needed community engaged schemes?
Above: Landfill erosion on Walney Island, off Barrow in Furness. Photograph: Ashley Cooper/Global Warming Images/Alamy
Many postcolonial countries are currently engaged in a struggle to come to terms with the legacy of imperialism. I believe modern Britain’s response does not adequately confront the consequences of its past and present imperialist actions. From a distinct lack of education surrounding the British empire, to refusals to return stolen artefacts, to historically revisionist accounts of violence and genocide – Britain fails to critically engage with this aspect of its historical and cultural heritage. Though it may be uncomfortable for future generations, I am seeking to conserve evidence of these present-day attitudes as a record of the lingering imperialist sentiments in Britain’s cultural heritage.
Left: a caryatid taken by Lord Elgin from the Erechtheion in the early 19th century, displayed in the British Museum. Right: the remaining five caryatids (with room for the 6th), on display at the Acropolis Museum in Athens. Despite repeated requests from the Greek government, the British Museum refuses to return the statue.
This morning the publication of the ‘Thriving at Work’ report, commissioned by Theresa May, revealed the material impact that mental health is having on the British economy (up to £99 billion)*. Although the evaluation of the cost impact, over the experiential impact, embodies current consumerist attitudes towards personal suffering, It couldn’t have come at more relevant time.
Alongside the impact to the British economy, our mental health has a huge impact on the finite life of the individual and the continuing life of society.
With the rise of secular society, loss of spiritual and community benefits, and the collapse of the welfare state (along with all its assurances), collective anxiety is at an all time high.
Without a narrative or collective identity to which we belong, I am intending to conserve a lost sense of national assurance, with which we used to find in cultural, institutional and government authorities.
*Thriving at Work: a review of mental health and employers. (26th October 2017). Department for Work and Pensions and Department of Health.
Is it arrogant to consider yourself worthy of attack? With a growing fear in the Western World of the unexpected, immediate destruction of physical culture, blunt security measures mushroom up in our towns and cities. Their sheer numbers smothering and encircling sites of perceived societal value creates a tangible divide between the “worthy” and the “worthless”. With such obvious and increasing segregation, does this imply that the “hoi polloi” are of less consequence? Does this attitude propagate a culture with a fetish for counter-terrorism measures?
Contemporary consumerist culture tends to focus on the properties of the object, increasingly coveting the intangible aspirational values that objects are seen to represent, fashion, affluence, position etc.
Theorist blame this trend for driving a growing ontological divide in the contemporary subject-object relationship. How could conservation respond to the continued expansion of this divide, perhaps even a clean split?
The project aims to explore a devolution of the ‘perceived object’ into two opposing camps. Those who prioritise properties (intangible facts, feeling and values) and those who look to the stuff itself, the constitutional physical matter of a thing.