Salvando Beirute | Nível avançado

Com a explosão no porto de Beirute, diversos prédios históricos estão seriamente ameaçados.


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Saving Beirut


Five days after the enormous explosion in Beirut that killed more than 220 people and left up to 300,000 homeless, Joseph Khoury and his wife Gabriela Cardozo visited Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhael, two historic neighborhoods located close to the port. They carried 30 postcards – every photograph in their series Bouyout Beirut (Houses of Beirut), which captures the beauty of Beirut’s Ottoman and French mandate-era architecture. They found 25 of the 30 buildings. At each, they left behind a postcard.



After the explosion on 4 August, caused by the detonation of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored at the city’s port, concern has been growing about how to safeguard what remains of Beirut’s architectural heritage. Thousands of historic buildings have already been lost in the three decades since the civil war ended. Now, many fear that structural damage done by the explosion may be used as an excuse to destroy the few that remain.


Historic Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhael were among the areas worst hit by the blast. Several buildings collapsed. Unesco, which has pledged to lead international restoration efforts, reported that 640 historic buildings were damaged in the blast. Around 60 are at risk of collapse. The total cost of restoration is currently estimated at $300m.


The crisis comes at the end of a difficult year for Lebanon. Massive anti-government protests that began last October continued for months as Lebanon’s economy collapsed and the Lebanese pound lost about 80% of its value.


Khoury, who grew up hearing stories about Lebanon’s pre-war beauty, sees the buildings as a symbol of Lebanon’s past but also its future. “They’re part of Beirut’s identity. They represent the common good and the possibilities of what we still can be,” he says. “They give us hope and remind us of days when Beirut was thriving.”


"Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhael were among the first neighborhoods built once Beirut started expanding beyond its ancient city walls", explains Antoine Atallah, an architect and urban planner. He says the Ottoman buildings were particularly vulnerable to the force of the explosion.


Many fear that structural damage may be used as an excuse to tear buildings down instead of restoring them. Volunteers have been working to reassure owners and tenants that help is on its way. “They are not alone in this fight… Once the correct system is put in place there will be ways to finance the renovation of historical buildings that were damaged by the explosion. It’s really something that is being taken very seriously by many international organizations,” says Atallah. “They shouldn’t despair – even though they have all the reason in the world to despair. For us it is extremely important… We want to save not only the buildings but the social fabric that makes these buildings alive.”


Texto adaptado de reportagem da BBC. Você pode ler o texto original aqui.

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VOCABULARY


To safeguard (verb)

To protect


To pledge (verb)

To promise something publicly


To thrive (verb)

To prosper, to grow (especially economically)


To tear down (verb)

To destroy, to bring down


Tenant (noun)

A person who rents a place

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