‘’We’re in a seismic area. Beirut has been buried seven times, so it has to resist any earthquake, and that’s why it also resisted the explosion in the port,’’ expresses Lina Ghotmeh in conversation with Louisiana Channel, in regards to the Stone Garden. A building constructed with resilience in mind, in a city that has been buried within rubble and rebuilt multiple times.
Lina Ghotmeh was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at her studio in Paris in November 2021. Renowned for her Humanist approach to Architecture, the Stone Garden offers a very personal relationship as the first building to be constructed in Ghotmeh’s hometown of Beirut. Positioned on the edge of the city center, it is very much a form of vernacular architecture echoing the lives of the people who reside here.
Ghotmeh grew up surrounded by rich cultural history marred with the long-term effects of the Lebanese Civil War. She seeks materiality and form that reflect the extensive history of the cosmopolitan city, with the story of the building itself originating with Fouad El Khoury’s photographs of the war. A precedence that inspired the tower to be a symbol of resilience among ruins.
There were a lot of manifestations and critiques around the rehabilitation and the question of erasing the memory of the city. People had a very emotional relationship with the city center, and it was completely transformed and cleaned up. So, the question of memory was very much present when I had to do this project – Lina Ghotmeh
Transforming the cityscape, Ghotmeh communicates that the rising sculpture may be of medium scale but offers opportunity for growth, giving way to a new form of high rise; architecture that encourages the evolution of the city. A solid concrete shell that is both climatically intelligent and appropriate in the Middle East, the construction of the building remains resistant despite frequent quakes and other unforeseen calamities.
In Beirut 2020, one of the largest non-nuclear blasts in history shook the city, shortly after the building was completed. Despite catastrophic effects, including a large magnitude of deaths and the widespread destruction of dwellings, the Stone Garden remained intact with only mild reverberations. Its durable nature reflects the durability of the people themselves. A scarred landscape that continues to grow despite unfortunate happenings.
A combination of cement and local earth has been hand strewn by artisans to mimic her own memories of the architecture in her hometown. It addresses post-war regrowth and revival, of new life in a war-torn landscape, intertwining aspects of biophilia as a symbolic nod to regeneration.
The building started to talk about all these bulleted facades that were just eaten up by the war. And then thinking about how the openings maybe can be a place of life now, it can be a place where nature can grow. Where instead of being an opening that portrays these negative moments of conflict, they become places of life. A large opening becomes a place where a big garden can live, and nature can be a part of the architecture.– Lina Ghotmeh
Initially striving to be an archaeologist, Architect Lina Ghotmeh graduated from the American University of Beirut where she investigated space, landscape and memory via her own methodology entitled ‘Archaeology of the future’; architecture that has a strong relationship with nature and ancestral forms. Here she was awarded the Prix AZAR and Prix AREEN awards before pursuing her education at the École Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris. Recently awarded the Schelling Architecture prize 2020 for recognition of future-orientated developments in architecture, notable works include the Estonian National Museum and the Hermes workshops in France, both of which were awarded for excellence.
To see more architecture videos, check ArchDaily's full coverage of Louisiana Channel's series of interviews.
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