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Rebuilding a Dream: Oscar Niemeyer in Tripoli

Lebanon: On the 13th of April 1975, a series of clashes coupled with political tension throughout the country resulted in what we know today as the Lebanese civil war.

Over 250,000 fatalities in 15 years of conflicts, this war left, among its casualties, the country's economy in the dirt, but also the local artistic & cultural scene which lost enough to erase years of progress for the city’s thriving community at the time.

The Rachid Karami International Fair Complex in Tripoli - North Lebanon, is one of these cultural casualties. Despite being very similar to the National Congress of Brazil in terms of design, its aspirations were totally different.

It was designed by a Brazilian architect who is considered to be one of the key figures in the development of modern architecture, late Oscar Niemeyer.

The purpose of President Karami behind building this Fair was to identify and illustrate the wide range of Lebanese, Arab and foreign products available in the country and to inform commercial and industrial interests of the progress made in establishing the various parts of the national economy.

It was to be a world trade exhibition space and it was hoped the fair would not only revitalize Tripoli, but would compete directly with (and eventually overshadow) the region’s other major fairs in Baghdad and Damascus.

The construction of this project was interrupted with the eruption of the war and the work was never resumed. But 40 years later, the dream of concluding the labor on this charming Complex is still alive.

A local engineering & contracting establishment (MEC) is aiming to present this affair before the European Union, applying for a fund that could be of service to revive the complex and seeing this scheme completed.

MEC approached us at 21dB for the sake of endorsing their presentation with scientific fact underlining the distinctiveness of the theatre’s architecture as well as its sonic environment.

The only invaluable legacy related to this project Niemeyer left behind were a series of sketches, drawings and plans of the project.

Having already made acoustic measurements and tests on site, we are currently working on recreating the acoustic identity of the theatre conducted by a dedicated acoustic simulation that allows a detailed study on the sound propagation inside the space.

Ray tracing investigation

Since the construction has never been completed, we’ve been trying to determine the architectural deficiencies and all the solutions possible so that the theatre can be used to its optimal sonic potential.

3D balloon propagation method

This dome has the potential to become a monumental venue, for festivals and exhibitions inter alia, (as) equally important as the Temple of Bacchus in Baalbek.

We are hopefully on the edge of seeing this long awaited project finally put to use.

The question then arises as to whether the tension surrounding the region will see the phoenix rise from the ashes reborn with the city of Tripoli? or will he meet a more bitter destiny on the road he took to avoid it ?

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