Architectures of Hiding

Ahmad Beydoun

The evidence of the erasure of evidence (series): Chapter 2: Mask/ Unmask: a city and its night club

The progression of socioeconomic and political events in Lebanon seems to be interlinked in an endless loop of violence. Beirut, in particular, is a setting where space seems to be temporally distorted. The saying “history repeats itself” perpetually manifests, such that the urban setting and socioeconomic conditions of a certain timeframe can be easily confused with another. This is made particularly apparent when analyzing the impact of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) and the Beirut Port explosion (August 4, 2020) upon the built environment and the living conditions in the city. The site of Beirut’s famous nightclub, B018, is positioned in close proximity to the Beirut Port, and along the edge of the previous stronghold area of the Phalangist militia. This site existed as an underground bunker and torture center run by the Phalangists, and within its vicinity occurred a heinous massacre against Kurdish and Palestinian refugees. The underground structure was later on commissioned to Bernard Khoury, transforming it into what is today, one of the most famous nightclubs in Lebanon. Repurposing buildings can be a devious technique to conceal an infamous history. Information pertaining to the pre-club phase is restricted to the nightclub’s descriptions that romanticize the transformation as a “work of art.” Bernard Khoury is among the architects and artists who have used the civil war as a major source of inspiration for their work. Khoury in particular has used symbols representing cannons and dark aesthetics in his architecture, thereby having normalized scenes of destruction and war within the city. This research project will provide a critique on the work of Lebanese artists and architects of the 1990s who have creatively perpetuated the desire of the State by normalizing and validating the aesthetics of destruction, after the end of the war. B018 will be used as a case study that has witnessed history repeating itself twice, on its premises. By doing so, this research intends to unmask the crimes of the former militia men and current parliamentary members who participated in operating and running the former phase of the nightclub.

Keywords: Beirut Port, politics of erasure, representation, memory, gentrification

AHMAD BEYDOUN (b. 1994, Beirut) is an architect and researcher who frequently operates in artistic settings. He completed his Bachelor of Architecture at the Lebanese American University and the École Spéciale d’Architecture. He is interested in developing research-based projects around collective memory in situ and in generated environments, critical cartographic and pedagogic practices that resist the carceral continuum in architecture and urbanism. Currently, Ahmad is building a repository for the decaying Khiam Detention Center to publicly perpetuate its infamous memory in the face of recent attempts of erasure and biased revisions. He is also working as a research assistant for Lawrence Abu Hamdan where he is working on upcoming audio investigations. He has previously worked as an architect at DW5 Bernard Khoury Architects where he was involved in a multidisciplinary range of work from concept discussions, to the illustration and production of digital images. His research-based projects have been supported by and presented at the Technical University of Delft, Art Jameel, Beit Beirut, Hammana Artist House and the internet.