Beyroutes: A Guide to Beirut
As a supplement to Volume #22, we also present the separate publication Beyroutes, a guidebook to Beirut, one of the grand capitals of the Middle East. Beyroutes presents an exploded view of a city which lives so many double lives and figures in so many truths, myths and historical falsifications. Visiting the city with this intimate book as your guide makes you feel disoriented, appreciative, judgmental and perhaps eventually reconciliatory. Beyroutes is the field manual for 21st century urban explorer.
With contributions by Maureen Abi Ghanem, Romy Assouad, Hisham Awad, Cleo Campert, Joane Chaker, Tony Chakar, Zinab Chahine, Steve Eid, Christian Ernsten, Christiaan Fruneaux, Edwin Gardner, David Habchy, Mona Harb, Pascale Harès, Jasper Harlaar, Janneke Hulshof, Hanane Kaï, Karen Klink, Niels Lestrade, Mona Merhi, Elias Moubarak, Tarek Moukaddem, Kamal Mouzawak, Joe Mounzer, Alex Nysten, Nienke Nauta, Ahmad Osman, Haig Papazian, Pieter Paul Pothoven, Rani al Rajji, Joost Janmaat, Jan Rothuizen, Ruben Schrameijer, Reem Saouma, Michael Stanton and George Zouein.
Beyroutes was initiated by Studio Beirut in collaboration with Partizan Publik, Archis and the Pearl Foundation. Supported by Prince Claus Fund, Fund Working on the Quality of Living and the Netherlands Embassy in Lebanon.
Archis Never Walk Alonely Planet series – city guides with an eye for people.
Everything comes from somewhere. It’s a fact so self-evident it hardly feels worth saying. But beyond this obvious truth, provenance is a powerful industry. As a capitalist tactic, it addresses the problem of anonymous mass-production through the added-value of meaning. And it is everywhere. As such, our daily routines have fundamentally changed. No longer a simple succession of actions, they are now a complex sequence of meaningful objects, objects that reveal stories reflecting our moral and personal character. In the shower we lather with locally produced handcrafted soap. Our coffee packaging reassures us that the Ethiopian crop worker – his name is Abraham – earns a living wage. The mug we drink from, as told by the sales clerk, is a Scandinavian classic. We slice into a tomato, knowing that at the farmer’s market we shook the farmer’s hand. These things make us feel good; they reaffirm our egos, assuage our guilt, and remind us that we are interested and interesting individuals. It is 8:30 in the morning.
The Modern subject is usually defined by its epistemological capacity. Enlightened at heart, it is composed of a body and a mind evolving in an homogeneous space and time; it is mostly conscious, aware of the world to the extent of his/her knowledge. This model for subjectivity continues to produce the city both formally and as an abstraction. If this model has been under criticism since it emerged, today, the lived experience of space is being transformed more directly than before through the devices, software and networks that affect the sensing capacity of the subject. As it is possible to access quantities of information at a distance, through deserts and walls, it is also possible to be governed in the same manner. This aspect of the contemporary urban experience has notably exposed the inadequacy of the dialectical separation between spheres that have produced the modern subject and its habitat: the modern city. How to think the city when the domestic is public, the personal is political, and reproduction is production? How is the city transformed by the digital quantification of space which indexes both the living and nonliving and allows it to be managed in almost real-time? These are only partial formulations of the actual challenges brought by the heterogeneous dynamics at work today with the evolution of labor, technologies and subjectivity. A contemporary analysis of the city needs to account for the destabilization of the dichotomies that still constitute the subject at large, whether they are body or mind, human or nonhuman, and material or immaterial. In this regard, there is something actually fascinating in the fact that objects or cities are now wished with a particular personality trait, and be called smart.
One of the more recent phenomena in a city’s public space is the ‘wrap’. Passing through the city, all of a sudden a familiar face is hidden from view, covered by a mesh of steel tubes and fine-grained nets. This all has to do with scaffoldings’ safety regulations, erected for a building façade’s maintenance. The nets hung around the temporary structure hide the building from view, making one wonder what it’ll look like when the job is done.
One of architecture’s histories is that of the art of display: architecture displaying power, political ambition, economic success, social agendas, or less mundane notions like dreams, convictions and belief. These days architecture has also become subjected to display: the display of architecture — in museums and collections, and in auctions for example. That adds but also distracts meaning; not every aspect of architecture can be displayed as easy. And what does a culture of display (be seen or perish) add to this condition?
There’s only two days left to visit the ARCHIZINES exhibition at its final destination, Moscow.