Lebanon is home to several outstanding structures, influenced by centuries of architectural styles. However, one of the most intriguing projects in the Middle Eastern country lies in the northern city of Tripoli, a culturally-rich historical city with structures once inhabited by Romans, Crusaders, Phoenicians, and Ottomans. The Rachid Karami International Exhibition Center, designed by Oscar Niemeyer, reflects the slow deterioration from Lebanon’s pre-war golden age to post-war depression. The country's iconic modernist site has suffered after years of neglect and reportedly will require upwards of 15 million dollars to restore.
The modernist complex is made up of 15 free-flowing concrete structures, spread across an area of 1 million square meters: a domed theater, an outdoor theater situated within an Islamic-inspired pointed-arch pergola, a helipad, a monumental arch behind an outdoor amphitheater, and several other abstract concrete forms.
The complex was designed by Niemeyer in the 1960s, but construction halted as civil war broke out in Lebanon in the mid-1970s. Just a few years after the start of the conflict, the site was occupied by the Syrian army and militia groups. Today, all that remains is a devastated abandoned sculpture park visited more by architecture/photography enthusiasts than by the locals it was built for.
To shed light on the importance of the site and its conservation (an extensive and costly undertaking) an exhibition is being held by the Brazilian embassy in Lebanon, the Brazil-Lebanon Cultural Center, and the Niemeyer Heritage Foundation Tripoli, in collaboration with Tripoli-based architecture firm Wassim Naghi Architects, on the 6th of February in Beirut, presenting photographs, documentaries, and models of Niemeyer’s project.