The loss of cultural heritage in the aftermath of the Beirut blast is a ‘loss for every Lebanese citizen’ says Carlo Massoud

Beirut-based architects and designers share stories from the day of the Beirut blast

Can you share your experience of what happened at the time of the Beirut blast? On August 4, I was in my apartment/studio located in the historical street of Mar Mikhayel. I was working when I heard the first explosion. I went on my balcony to see what was going on. I saw grey smoke rising to the sky from the port, located 300 metres away. At 6:07 pm, the ground shook at 4.5 on the Richter scale. I understood that something was wrong. I only had time to cover my head with my hands and lie on the floor. Then boom.

Was your home and studio damaged? The whole house got destroyed. The windows, doors, elevator doors, lamps, false ceiling, aluminium window frames, everything got damaged in a single second. Luckily, I lost nothing.

Photography by Sandra Chidiac

What are your feelings after this incident? It is very hard. After the explosion, I went down to the street to see what was going on and check on my friends and neighbours. It was chaos. I could only see grey and red everywhere. People were screaming and crying, the firefighters were hopeless. I was trying to understand what happened. Today, I am very sensitive to noise and cannot handle hearing too much of it. We have some difficulties sleeping. We are stressed and very down, but lucky to be alive. Since that day I never slept in my apartment again. I cannot live in it anymore.

How did you feel seeing so many volunteers take to the streets to help? And are you planning on getting involved in the rebuilding yourself? The day after the explosion, an army of volunteers rushed to the streets to clean and help the inhabitants. When I saw this, it gave me hopes for the future. And yes, I have gotten in touch with many NGOs and the World Bank who are raising funds to rebuild the city. Architects, engineers, designers, and professionals are working hand in hand to assess the damages and plan the reconstruction.

“Help us, help us, help us! We need your support in everything. Talk about us. Don’t forget us.”

What were some significant buildings that were lost, and do you think it would be possible to restore them? The Cocrhane Palace, the Sursock Museum, all the Ottoman and French buildings located on Trabaud and Armenia streets are severely damaged. The Electricite du Liban building, the Silo in the port and so many more structures are damaged. It is an enormous cultural heritage that has been damaged and a big loss for every Lebanese citizen.

NGOs are working hard to raise money to restore everything as it was. The government, the Beirut Municipality and all the government institution are doing nothing. They are useless. It is going to take years to rebuild everything.

Is there a message that you would like to send out to communities outside of Lebanon? Don’t give a penny to the Lebanese government. Don’t trust anything they are saying. Help us, help us, help us! We need your support in everything. Talk about us. Don’t forget us.