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The Mission to Rescue Beirut’s Cultural Heritage From Rubble

Two years after a huge explosion devastated the port area, architects are trying to ensure the city doesn’t lose the symbols of its heyday. 

Scaffolding on the south facade of the Beit Kassar, a traditional 19th-century Lebanese house in Beirut, Lebanon.

Scaffolding on the south facade of the Beit Kassar, a traditional 19th-century Lebanese house in Beirut, Lebanon.

Photographer: Colombe Clier

The triple-arched window is typical of the latter days of the Ottoman Empire, a testament to an era of grandeur when Beirut thrived as a center of trade and culture. Yet, the five-meter-high façade is now a symbol of loss rather than prosperity.

The life-sized reconstruction of the entrance hall to a 19th century house sits in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. It was assembled by two Lebanese craftsmen from 283 colored concrete tiles, 113 blocks of sandstone, 10 wooden beams — and much more — all shipped from Beirut in a container.