What is an Urban Theatre? It is a space that holds the potential to captivate the imagination of any vision, a place where people from all communities and walks of life come together to enjoy and celebrate art and as a result, further bond as human beings.
Sticking to this philosophy and created as a competition entry for the upcoming Beirut Museum of Art, positioned on a symbolic site in the city of Beirut that once marked the dividing line in the Lebanese Civil War, the Urban Theatre – A Museum for Beirut by French Architect Lina Ghotmeh, was proposed to stand as a symbol of unification for Lebanon. Although this proposal didn’t emerge at the top in the competition, this design by the prodigious architect set a benchmark for all the other competitors.
The structure, formed through the amalgamation of different layers, rises from below the ground and appears to be hanging from the skies of Beirut. Stepping away from the highly complex formal architecture, all unnecessary ornamentation has been rejected in favor of adopting a minimalistic aesthetic. The Beirut Museum of Arts rises quietly, in a subdued manner, its form starkly different from the complexity that is the urban fabric of Beirut. As a result, the structure defies the traditional fabric of its surroundings to stand proudly as an architectural marvel of the 21st Century.
With an expansive glass walkway as its front facade that emerges from the ground and leads towards the skies of Beirut, makes us traverse through the multiple layers that the Museum is made up of. As per the words of its architect Lina Ghotmeh while describing the structure, “From the archeology of the past emerges a garden, a secret place, a secret ground but open to all, to all diversions and perversions”, this museum is a place to experience the thrilling work of Lebanese artists and provides a cultural breadth in an urban jungle that unleashes one’s creativity and imagination.
Large glass windows give a panoramic view of the surrounding urban landscape while giving a glimpse into the activities inside the complex to the people outside, thus successfully creating a feeling of curiosity and intrigue of the activities happening inside within the general populace. The aim is to further emphasize the intricate texture of the urban fabric of Beirut while being a contrastingly silent and imposing form that instills an element of simplicity to the complexity that is Beirut.
Sleek, minimal, and free, this theatre by Lina Ghotmeh gives a glimpse into what Beirut was in the past and what it is capable of being in the future through its spaces and art installations. Starkly white in appearance, it reflects the surrounding cityscape while having an identity of its own signifying the dawn of new hope and peace that gives a sense of calm to its onlookers.
It is not restricted to being just a building, but a persona with a monolithic spirit, bare without any ornamentations, simplified to the extent as it lays open to sky without a roof, to maximize the possibility for the creation of public life, it subtly and silently holds a Damascus road, a turning point to the tormented history of Lebanon, giving it a chance to move on and unite once again by creating a haven as it provides a generous public realm on its inner side.
This Urban Theatre by Lina Ghotmeh is a paradise for those with a love and affinity for arts. It is a place for performances, for arts, for daily life. It is an urban generator, a common space curated to indulge in and celebrate a possible common culture, a place where art is not restricted, where it does not stop but rather flows freely, where the possibilities are endless to gather, to hide, to talk, to question, to perform, to think, to move, take a stroll to fall and rise again, to dream.
At the end of the day, this architectural piece aims to be able to generate a new urban ground, a new heart for Beirut, capable of building communities.
Lina Ghotmeh (2016), Urban Theatre – A Museum for Beirut Beirut, Lebanon [online] (last updated 2016) Available at: http://linaghotmeh.com/
Lina Ghotmeh (2016), Urban Theatre – A Museum for Beirut Beirut, Lebanon [online] (last updated 2016) Available at: http://www.archtalent.com/projects/urban-theatre-a-museum-for-beirut
Lina Ghotmeh (2016), BeMA: Beirut Museum of Art: THE URBAN THEATER’ [online] (last updated 2016) Available at: http://www.bema.museum/bema/explore/architecture/submissions/lina-ghotmeh
Unknown (2019) Urban Theatre, [online] (last updated 2019) Available at: https://ilikevents.com/news/64061-Dubaidesignweek-2019-07-31-13-47-20