Lebanese architect Gioia Sawaya talks about the redevelopment project for the port area of the city of Beirut. Objective: to donate a place of remembrance to the nation, after the explosion of 2020

Starting from an empirical analysis, conducted during a visit to the rubble left by the tragic explosion that occurred in Beirut in August 2020, the Lebanese architect Gioia Sawaya has developed the design of a 'ephemeral structure' that becomes symbol of memory.

The origin of the project

A little over two years ago Beirut witnessed the tragic explosion of a warehouse, in which a large quantity of ammonium nitrate was stored, in the city port area. The damages, ascertained for 5 billion Euros, the victims, 218 dead people, and the socio-cultural wound that the city carries with it today find symbolic expression in the five grain silos not far from the warehouse that over time, day after day, are disintegrating.

The last to sell was a few weeks ago, in August 2022, exactly two years after the incident.

"During my visit, as I walked among the tons of spilled grain, I noticed that the soles of my boots had begun to melt. The grain, due to the very high temperatures still coming from the explosion, < strong> started a fermentation phase with worrying results : it would have led to dangerous fires in the future. That's when I decided to intervene as an architect and design this proposal (in January 2022) pro bono "says architect Sawaya .

The silos, no longer useful or central on the economic front - before they represented a fundamental source of grain for the nation - are today bearers of intense meaning: a scar that deserves to be rethought and restored, with meaning , to the city.

Assumption from which Gioia Sawaya started to present the work.

Thought ephemeral, but to remain in time

To ensure that the structure survives over time, thus avoiding collapse, the project is based on the reconstruction of the central body of the silos, using the steel recovered from the affected deposits in the port area.

From the outside, a facade of biocomposite material is what inspired the 'ephemeral' meaning of the project: Sawaya proposes, with a view to urgently removing the abandoned grain and source of danger, the transformation of this raw material in biodegradable blocks used for construction.

The grain, today, is in fact in a state of already quite advanced degradation, due to the weather conditions: these organic blocks can thus constitute a temporary facade which over time will dissolve and decompose will bring the grain back to form soil fertile, without representing any danger.

To commemorate the idea of the first row of silos that protected the western part of the city, the proposal will keep metrics very close to those of the original structure.

Inside, moreover, a walkable lane will be created and articulated through a series of ramps that make up a 'U' shape: the impression will be that of walking right in the heart of the cylindrical walls of the original silos . The color chosen for this walkway is red, symbolizing the blood of the victims who lost their lives during the explosion.

Redefining the role of vertical traffic, the temporary infrastructure lane represents a 'topography of memory' and is a tribute to those who have left.