Friday, December 30, 2011

FETISH SYSTEMS REVIEW / KALIMAT MAGAZINE

FETISH SYSTEMS
reviewed by Karim Sultan for Kalimat Magazine
http://www.kalimatmagazine.com/




It was the writer Italo Calvino that suggested a writing that—rather than pointing at or recreating an object or character—envelops, surrounds like a fine mist. This
suggests their existence rather than attempts to simply recre- ate them, allowing the reader a measure of engagement and creation with the text. The writing in Fetish Systems, a new written work by multi-talented Lebanese author Raafat Majzoub, warrants this comparison. His bio alone which adorns this slim volume is merely suggestive: “he is trained as an architect, yet refuses the title – he is currently working on several construction projects, a few books, something that might be a painting, a table and would like this bio to end with an et cetera.”

“To live in Beirut, is to know that one must accept circumstance. We have become numb—all of us—numb—in a state of trance, where ‘elastic’ would describe our functional execution of our everyday...”

The work begins with curious jump-starts into a loosely shaped narrative that can be described as extremely subjective. There is no clear and formal introduction of characters or plot, but rather the text quickly makes it clear to the reader that this is more akin to the highly personal literary experiments of the past century than anything else. The language resembles somewhat the erotic poetic sketches of Georges Bataille, although more cohesive, more drawn out, but similar enough in near- destructive exploratory eroticism to draw the comparison. The fragmented flow of the narrative often times resembles poetry, with alliterative flurries of words provide rough outlines of occurrences that bring to mind a defective photography which only hints at shapes, colours and movement, with the Majzoub’s Beirut always vaguely in the background.

“It has become instinct to absorb, shock, absorb, trau- ma, react, trauma, shock, absorb shock. It is something, a trait that we contain—for so—we all are nothing...We claim that we have lost our identity, we claim the right to construct a holistic monotone remedy to unite us—to homogenize us.”

This work is certainly not for the casual reader; there is no quick drawing-up and resolution of characters and plot. Rather, this work has something intensely therapeutic, describ- ing personal relationships with mysterious “others” and places in intimate detail in a way that is, once again, acutely subjec- tive. One gets the impression that even the most innocent of exchanges between the narrator and a lover will show up on the page as darkly dissatisfied, anxious graspings for understanding and rejection of understanding, spiralling outward and inward simultaneously. Majzoub’s language, word choice, and cadence is curiously playful, vacillating within single sentences between the vulgar and the academic, sometimes with seeming deliberate focus on the rhythm and the sound of the passage rather than the written meaning, making it somehow visceral and physical and something that attempts to refuses rational deliberation.

“We are only afraid of our naked bodies in the mirror. We define our curves from our audience’s point of view, from their eyes, from between their eyelashes—so we struggle to title us, to make it easier for them to comprehend, easier for us to make them believe—for our actions and words—not the same.”

The success of Majzoub’s experiment is difficult to gauge. Yet as a text, the sustained formal and subjective effort makes this author one to keep an eye on in the coming years.


BUY THE BOOK HERE
http://tinyurl.com/7rqtbh3

2012

tomorrow, the phone lines will be out when i would have liked to use them. i probably won't call. ..i won't wish you things, but i'd like us to co-hope, that if 2012 is the last year we're having here - may the end be as dramatic, as cinematic, the sounds so furious and smells more glorious than they can ever possibly be. and if it's not the apocalypse..i would like us to co-hope for the same.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

OFF TO THE RACES - LDR

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwhiP1_mEyI


My old man is a bad man but I can't deny the way he holds my hand
And he grabs me he has me by my heart
He doesn't mind I have a Las Vegas past. He doesn't mind I have a LA crass way about me
He loves me with every beat of his cocaine heart

Swimming pool glimmering darling white bikini off with my red nail polish
Watch me in the swimming pool bright blue ripples. You sipping, sipping on your black Cristal, yeah

Light of my life, fire of my loins
Be a good baby do what I want
Light of my life, fire of my loins.
Gimme them gold coins. Gimme them coins.

And I'm off to the races. Cases of Bacardi chasers. Chasing me all over town.
Cuz he knows I'm wasted, facing time again in Rikers Island and I won't get out.
Because I'm crazy baby.
I need you to come here and save me.
I'm your little scarlet starlet singing in the garden. Kiss me on my open mouth.
Ready for you.

My old man is a tough man, but he got a soul as sweet as blood red jam.
And he shows me he knows me, every inch of my tar black soul.
He doesn't mind I have a flat, brokedown life.
In fact, he says he thinks it's why he might like about me, admires me,
The way I roll like a rolling stone.

Likes to watch me in the glass-room, bathroom, trapdoor mama, slippin' on my red dress, putting on my makeup.
Glass-room perfume, cognac lilac fumes. Says it feel like heaven to him.

Light of his life, fire of his loins.
Keep me forever, tell me you want me
Light of your life, fire of your loins.
Tell me you want me, gimme them coins.

And I'm off to the races, cases of Bacardi chasers.
Chasing me all over town.
Cuz he knows I'm wasted, facing time again in Rikers Island and I won't get out.
Because I'm crazy baby.
I need you to come here and save me.
I'm your little scarlet starlet singing in the garden
Kiss me on my open mouth.

Now I'm off to the races, laces, leather on my waist is tight and I am falling down
I can see your faces, shameless, Chiffioni's basement.
Love you but I'm going down.
God I'm so crazy, baby, I'm sorry that I'm misbehaving.
I'm your little harlot, starlet, Queen of Coney Island. Raising hell all over town.
Sorry 'bout it.

My old man is a thief and I'm going to stay and pray with him til' the end,
But I trust him, the decision of the Lord to watch over us.
Take him when he may if he may. I'm not afraid to say that I'd die without him.
Who else is going to put up with me this way? I need you I breathe you I'd never leave you.
They would rue the day I was alone without you
You're lying with your gold chain on, cigar hanging from your lips.
I said, Hun, you never looked so beautiful as you do now my man.

And we're off to the races, places. Ready, set, the gate is down and then we're going in
To Las Vegas, chaos, casino oasis. Honey it is time to spit.
Boy you're so crazy, baby
I love you forever, Not maybe
You are my one true love (x3)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

TRIPOLI WINTER CULTURAL SEASON 2011/12

TRIPOLI FOUNDATION + FRIENDS OF NAWFAL PALACE 
present 
TRIPOLI WINTER CULTURAL SEASON 2011/12
at Nawfal Palace - Trablus ElTall

All events start at 5 PM onwards.
This year's season is dedicated to the late artist Mario Saba
two thousand eleven
NOV.25 A book signing of Fetish Systems by Raafat Majzoub and the release of issue one of ThePurple Haut-Parleur by +236m3

NOV.26 A book signing of Khabaya El Rouh by Roula Azzi

DEC. 02 An art exhibition by Friends of Tripoli Railway Station of artwork done by children at the event of the commemoration of the centenary of the station. 

DEC.03 'Idle Remains', a musical gig by Liliane Chlela

DEC.09 A calligraphic illustration exhibition by Syed Tajammol Hussein titled 'Words of Gold'

DEC.16 'Folk Without a Cause' a musical gig by Kristen Hope and The Incompetents


two thousand twelve
JAN.07 A photography exhibition by Noor Fattal, Nour Kabbara and Jihad Samra

JAN.13 A book signing of C'etait il y a 20 ans: Beyrouth le centre... Aujourd'hui by Elias Khlat

JAN.14 A painting exhibition by Laurette El Halal

JAN.21 A painting exhibition by Raoul Mallat

JAN.27 A book signing by Hoda Bayassi

JAN.28 Recitals by Maan Zakaria

FEB.03 A book signing by Jeannot Haddad

FEB.04 A Painting exhibition by Ali Rifaii

FEB.10 Collective poetry reading by young poets.

FEB.11 Collective poetry reading by young poets.

FEB.17 A book signing by Mazen Zahreddine

FEB.18 A book signing by Sharif Majdalani


notes on being
NawfalPalace is closed on Sundays and on official holidays. It is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm.
For more information, contact:
NawfalPalace: 06 627848
Khaled Merheb: 03 317130
Elias Khlat: 03 227462



Saturday, November 19, 2011

ThePurple Haut-Parleur || issue one Nov.25

debauchery. what i feel like? .. i feel like a group of people producing an immense amount of thinking, enough for them to sustain themselves with no need of external social reference. a group of people, capable enough to resolve, pseudo-intellectually, its mode of life, its being. a group of people that never say 'i agree' a group of people that make things, that like to listen to things, that like to think, that get high to stories by other people, the present tense, and wait eagerly -at cliffs- for the sunset.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

(In The World)

you hold things. things you probably are not supposed to hold. carry, things you're better off without. but you do. you think. you think. you're not sure. but you do. you carry. you hold. and you write, as exorcism, as catharsis, as disposal, as bullshit - you do. you think. you think. you're not sure, you rethink as you repeat things you've already typed to sound more whimsical, more musical - and here you go, you do it again - easier to handle, to grasp, to understand, when broken into pieces. so you stop. so you halt. you think, rethink - both thinking and rethinking leading nowhere new, no new things to hold, no lighter things to carry. you write. you rewrite. and this girl in red hair wants you to make her feel like she's the only girl in the world, as if your shit isn't enough. aspirin. you jump and jump until your legs die. they die, you oblivious. it's probably a remix, but it's fine. eventually, later that night, you'll sleep.

Monday, October 24, 2011

how does one make place?

does one rely on context? does one hypothetically rip off fragments of space, re-cast re-mold re-create it as place, a more sensual rendition of its father-self? 
or does one cater to space - space as context - space as clientelle


regardless, when the said place is made - if made - how do people come to that place?  why do people come to it? how can that-place become this-place


when does place overpower culture to an extent that it becomes a producer of it?
when does place leave physical constraints of context - 


is place responsible to context?
how real is place that would precede context?
will context try to reclaim it's position over the fictive place?


how does one make place to start out with?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

ossom


Belly Dance Act from Ahmad Sabbagh on Vimeo.

i love telling stories


and making stories up, and reshuffling stories, and lying. i love lying. but i'm always sincere. it is crucial to maintain sincerity when lying. the point is never deception. deception is for the weak at heart. the fictive is for those closer to the love of their mere existence. as you show them facts, they refract spokens into things not falsifiable by rhetoric. fuck it if my preference hinders your performance. fuck it if you think my preference tampers with your wealth of resource. i love telling stories and making stories up, and reshuffling stories mostly about myself. i hate it when you call them reflections. my stories are not reflections.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

a little threat for tomorrow

ibrahim wrote this on my window, almost seven years ago. for seven years, i would look at this. i would sometimes smile, sometimes hate it - sometimes think he's nuts, it's nuts, we're nuts for believing it - sometimes. it would come and go, looking at the window - ideas, more ideas, most undone, most forgotten, but some done, some under construction and going-to-be-done, via the obsessive person that i am - tomorrow, very clearly, needs to be mine. for it's own's sake.
i'm nice.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mr.Sehanoui | PhD. bilTaknolojya | Lebanese Internet

"fi ma7allet serveur baddo tekbeer..fi ma7allet router baddo router 7ad menno" -Mr.Sehnaoui's convincing argument to why the internet is still slow. ok. thanks.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Where do we go now?

i was taken to watch this film 2 days ago. the film is very very nice to say the least. i'm not in the mood to write a pompous review fluffing it up. i will just say this. do not buy it from armenia or syria for 1,000 LL or less. go to the movies and watch it. it is good. a very good film. and i liked it. i will stop typing because i can't help but do so like a 5 year old. it's a really nice film. go watch it. it's opening tomorrow (i think) in cinemas. go watch it. an interview and a trailer are at your disposal. click play and things. ok - i'll rewrite this later. in the meantime, watch it.
the film.

 the interview
   


 and the trailer
 

lebanon produces first 3D sharmouta in the arab world, rejoice

Friday, September 16, 2011

pomegranates

every now and then they raise you
between bedwaters and rain

but when you talk they shoot you


and like god you fade
from flesh to pains
fables in brains



Thursday, September 8, 2011

[ رأ فت ] no more


Dear 'Friends'


Facebook is finally fed up with me. My [ رأ فت ] account has been disabled. This is not bad news. This is just news. I am still reachable on ThePurple Haut-Parleur 


The crappy thing is that it was fun. My albums [most of them] are lost forever. We'll see.I doubt I'll sign up for another personal account.


Above is the picture that got me disabled. It's gorgeous. Facebook doesn't even know how to suck.  Much love..



ThePurple

  

Monday, September 5, 2011

REMIX MASHROU3 LEILA

remix here was a verb, look:


Habibi,

I hope this message finds you inspired as always,

I will be visiting Amman in few days. 
I have so many new stories to share with you and my friends; stories about Beirut, about a wife-to-be seeking marriage for economic stability, a melancholic revolutionary giving in to his society, and the lover of an irresponsible member of the city’s bourgeoisie. 
I’ve been craving to see you for some time now. It’s been a while. I miss seeing you. 

Hana malhas will be joining me at the Citadel [jabal al Qala’a] on Saturday September 10th and Zeid and the Wings on September 11th. 

I cannot describe how excited I am to have you with me on these two nights. You can find out more details on: 
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=160362944036499

On another note, Wajih decided he wants an extreme makeover. You can download the master tracks for the song from our website’s download section [www.mashrou3leila.com]. Remix it, play with it, cut it, edit it, slow it down, make it faster – do whatever you want with it - be creative – and after you’re done, I want to hear it and share it with my frinds...

My sister asked about you today. I knew she was on to us. I told her everything. She misses you too.

El hal romancy, bas mish ghalat.

Xx
Leila

This is good news. Finally. Anyways..see you in Amman. 
Yy
Raa

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

excerpt

"[...] I’ll be smoking a cigarette pretending I don’t care, so you make you more interesting, slowly more plastic as I regain interest – aesthetically.

I don’t know how things start.
It was a windy day by the sea in Beirut. I was playing with your hair before you bald. I was poking the foam off my cappuccino with your finger. You were pouring me some coffee before sunrise so I can write more about you. [...]" 

Monday, August 15, 2011

a 'bright' new bleug*

"because the pictures were horrifying, we forgot our history"
- http://beirutnomad.tumblr.com/




Monday, August 8, 2011

impossible is everything,

but possibility is not a parameter of action anyways. nothing is. it will take me forever to show you what i have in my pocket, it will take you forever to convince me you're not interested. but interest is not a parameter of action anyways. nothing is.
fixes neck in corner, holds one hand behind back - lets the other free - metaphoric sodomy - fixes eyes on other, holds one hand back - demands the other - as the other, never a parameter of action anyways. i am.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Soapkills - وديع

وديع تعا نلعب سوا لعبة 


غير الكلام ما النا شي   
حكلي سر ما تخبر حدا
الله نايم وشوشني بكير 

sniffs wholegrain flour off toilet seat with a 20.000 bill - party - beirut city -


he was never a know-it-all. he would come off as such.. he was an argue-it-all. it just didn't make sense. fact didn't make sense. the concept of factual evidence was beyond him. he was probably an idiot. he thought he was a genius. it's okay, no one cared. he could be a genius if he wanted too. and he was.. according to himself, a genius. he was a misfit. he did not like having sex. puberty was lonely. he liked the stars. he liked how they - in his present - are dead projections of theirs, their present. he had dead friends. the stars were ghosts. he had ghosts as friends. ghosts always beat flesh. everyone knew that. they still do actually, everyone knows that. everyone was never a parameter of normal to him. he thought everyone was stupid, as a chunk. it's ok. they all thought he was stupid, so it was mutually de-beneficial. but really, no one cared. some people called him gay. he googled it. it wasn't that bad. he just didn't like sex in general. others called him asexual. he googled that. it wasn't as bad as they made it sound. he thought he was sexual though, he just didn't like having sex. the act. he didn't like the other. the first time he came hands-free was when he stuck a cucumber up his hole. he tried being fucked. it was too painful. his partner was a jerk. it was okay, nothing new. he did not like having sex. every now and then, he remembered puberty. he drew portraits of it. talked to it. not knowing much about it yet. faked scenarios to cum to himself in constructed mirrors. he liked himself. he couldn't believe anyone else. he couldn't trust anyone else. he only came to trust. slowly, he taught himself to doubt himself. more and more, he lost taste of his jerking hand. more and more, his interest faded in his aging body. he was empty. he was empty, hyper in a beirut toilet cubicle - the music loud as fuck - men fucking in the cubicle on his right. men fucking in the cubicle on his left. in his cubicle, one man rolling a 20.000 bill, lining brown powder on the toilet seat.
"trust me, i'm not in it for the.. "
and it was almost, just almost - all fine

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

http://tinyurl.com/3sgf8fx (copy paste this link to download good music) OR i want to listen to spiders


what will be the biggest mistake of your life.. of course, as i say you - i'm talking to me.. you are not that important. in this context that is.. *come, gimme a kiss* with all the fuck ups you've done, your biggest are yet to come -- you think, ok - contingency .. mitigation, impartial frowns to temptations or lacks thereof -- what will be the biggest mistake of your life? is it that you will leave your lover waiting forever or is it that you've never met him .. is it time? is that your issue? time?
what will be the biggest mistake of your life *as you refuse it existed* with all the fuck ups you've done, will it be you accepting 'the time that remains' .. will it be you enjoying pseudo-epitomous success? will it be you grabbing self-proclaimed opportunity? will it be you, slowly chamfering past ego, past life, past excitement, past juvenile smiles at empty skies, into a gravity possessed  present, very tangible, very here, very impotent, seemingly fertile, what will be the biggest mistake of your life? will it be you, talking to yourself in third person type instead of being fucked saneless ..elsewhere.

Monday, August 1, 2011

poop is priceless, and so are 'you' - this doesn't make you any more interesting


SUBJECT: “It’s been a while since you’ve blogged anything philosophical” ..

BODY: Liquor. I need more liquor. It’s funny, everything. This is not going to be a philo. post, but it’s somewhere close. Actually it’s not. You see, I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t see where this is going. I don’t see where to ground it. I never wanted to ground it, but I’m impotent. My brain is impotent. I am stupid. My flesh is stupid. Severe lack of harmony between matter and not. Mass and not. I don’t get it. I don’t see the link between being and nothingness, and yes – I’m using the title of his book because I like how it sounds..not because it may mean anything in particular. You exist, right? You do. You stroll along existence. You look for things. You like things. Then if you think about it, you really don’t. You can like other things just as much. Then you will think about those, and dislike them. And then comes God in shining armor, the answer to it all, the unquestionable undeniable almighty head-wrapper that can’t even show you it’s face. Fuck it. I used to hate fiction. Fiction meant nothing. Nothing, now, is all-encompassing. It is everything. Vice versa. I want to live in fiction. All of you don’t exist..except sometimes in tutus. For all of you, I’ll fake personas I need. For our sake, play along.

EPILOGUE: Exists not,

SPONSORS: Marlboro reds

2.39

all these years, i got my info from fictional sources. i still do. the only difference is that now, i'm aware that i know nothing at all

Friday, July 22, 2011

Another reason to love @NRJLebanon

I've mentioned before my sincere cheers to NRJ Lebanon because since I moved to Trablus, it's been the only station that actually gets beyond the Holy Tunnel of Chekka. So that was reason number one. ..

I was taking a shower the other day and this comes up_
 

REACTION NUMBER 1
i burst out into wet hysterical laughter
CONSEQUENCE NUMBER 1
i slip

REACTION NUMBER 2
yaaaay! the Leilas on the radio
CONSEQUENCE NUMBER 2
it's fine, people slip ..i don't mind

So that was reason two if you didn't get it.



In other news, their new video ElHal Romancy was released yesterday at 10 PM. In case you haven't watched it, do. It's directed by Haig Papazian, the band's violinist and exotic dancer. It's his first take at directing, and I think it's super. It was shot in Beirut and Trablus with zero budget, a camera and some friends. If I'm feeling jolly later, I'll actually write about it and make him look cool and stuff..

Monday, July 18, 2011

i've been away for a [little] while

and while i was, came Google+ .. #epicfail , so i practically missed nothing.
a mini-update of what was going on..of what is going on ..and the next-ups,





my studio, +236m3 is on hypergear (somewhat) - temporary pleasures, yes - but pleasurable.
we're working on www.236m3.com and it will be up in parts, as the studio grows some pubic hair..

ThePurple Haut-Parleur is back in the works, issue 0 or.. issue 1, whatever tickles your pickles will be out soon to be distributed for free wherever you want it. i won't deliver, no, i'll just throw piles near you (and poop like that)




..and i'm listening to #Mashrou3Leila's new E.P. now, it's so good it hurts. go buy it and make them rich so they buy me gifts and houses > it's up on iTunes and Amazon


قوم نحرق هالمدينة 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

#555

due to intolerable differences with myself, i have decided to kill me. this is not a suicide note. this is not a threat. this is not but a final thrill of consensually extroverted emotion, outsourcing heartbeat, outsourcing ...outsourcing silence as i seem to run, run run against the edge - as it seems to get closer, a boulder, a bolder infinite, now tangible - a closer horizon, now in past tense, as i run, -- run run past shed selves, intolerable differences with prior cores, contemporary exoskeletal debriefings, and i run. run run, into future fractures, inevitable distopic reflections of isotopes of me, of others i will make, others i will meet, others i will desert, as i, due to intolerable differences, run. run run.

astropets

"You'll be experiencing some special moments of connection with others today, raafat. You could end up having an intimate chat with someone you've just met. Or someone who is developing a romantic interest in you might ask you to share lunch or coffee. Look for pleasant conversations and harmonious collaboration to be the theme for the day. Enjoy a day of flow and ease, both with casual acquaintances and loved ones. You deserve it!"

Well I do, but. This is a lie. All a lie.
*kicks constellations*

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

leitmofood

Once upon a time, a tomato, a bell pepper, an onion, and a garlic jumped in a metal pool. The big hungry cranky monster put them in the oven, then after they tanned to death, he took them out, showered them with lemon juice and blessed them with salt and pepper. The big hungry cranky monster enjoyed it. And he will live happily ever after.

Monday, June 20, 2011

coffee spills / paper stills

i find it obliquely funny that time doesn't care. that there will be no rerun. that when i fuck up, it's "too late" :)



Thursday, June 9, 2011

#JustSaying


"O-M-G, you're so sexy
You know you caught my eye with that B-O-O-T-Y
O-M-G shawty's such a freak
She says she wants to go back to my C-O-N-D-O
Let's go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go"

- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxLBR-OyVLU

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

عايش وحدي بلاك ..  وبلا حبك يا بلد .. 

The Pink Things



The Pink Things .. the self proclaimed Nomadic Kwings of Beirut are on facebook for now.
Like them.





Saturday, May 28, 2011

Trablus this morning: rain, wires, politics, patronage + outage


* * *
 
 
 

#Lebanon, brief TV #Sexuality

 
I missed most of this interview. I missed recording what made me like it . Here's the final snippet of the conversation..a pretty objective dude [dr. michael khoury] and an interviewer that wasn't basing his questions on things he overheard from his grandma's sob7iyye as he was brushing his teeth before he came to work.. 
#futureTV

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Feiruzian Aesthetic


This text was sent to AlMouhandes Magazine (The official magazine of the Order of Architects and Engineers in Lebanon) and did not get through. Nevertheless, هيهات منا الذل , donc.. here we go:

                                                                                
For a given race, cultural production – in retrospect – could be identified as heritage, whereby heritage becomes the byproduct of this people’s evolution in their everyday practice. In the mere functional sense of the term, heritage is a label to the natural trajectory of production and its respective consumption in a given time and place.

                The perception and utilization of heritage in Lebanon comes with a capital H. Heritage. In its postcolonial state as an inevitable third world market with an unbalanced consumption/production relationship, Lebanon, as a dissociatedly communal identity crisis reflected heritage back to different milestones of its once-golden past and manifested it physically into a strictly aesthetic discourse with a preservationalist moral etiquette.
               
Historical survey studies like works of Ragette, intended to be analytical of traditional construction, somehow became at the forefront of architectural education and implementation leading to the formulation of a hypothetical yes and no acceptance system that would devise whether certain architecture was Lebanese while others weren’t.

With the lack of a worthy contemporary alternative movement, the identity of the builtscape in Lebanon became more theatrical, less architectural. In parallel to the aesthetic approach driven by the professional mechanism of building, namely architects, clients were more and more convinced of this ‘style’. What was assumed to be nice was supposed to be Lebanese, and what was assumed to be Lebanese was arches, pitched roofs and stone.

Most of the work that I have been doing in my architectural practice has been situated in the epicenter of the Lebanese identity crisis, the village. The village, in the prominent nostalgia of the Lebanese people, i.e. the client, is the remaining physical interpretation of Lebanon. Its preservation has become a must. Its future development must now mimic its existing form.

Because talking about architecture without having a tangible case study is redundant, I will take the village of Barsa, North Lebanon as a case study that would act as a rough model for, more or less, the Lebanese countryside and its logistical establishment of contemporary construction. Due to its proximity to Tripoli, Barsa is becoming a desirable quiet area to move out of the city into, rendering its construction activity intense compared to a supposed haven in the countryside. On the other hand, what seems to be the only safeguard to its ambiance is a set of zoning rules that produce a design template for the architect to tweak into construction documents.

One possible definition of architecture would be that it’s a contextual art of habitation. In architectural practice though, context ceases to exist. Context is taken out of the domain of the architect into the realm of the urban planner that devises cut-out models of heritage-incubators, buildings that are going to be built now – yet look like their great grandparents.
As an architect you are confronted with an outline. Taking setbacks and footprints as postulates, sixty percent of each façade is required to be clad in stone. Your building will have a red pyramidal chapeau with a twenty five degree inclination. If you’re lucky, your client, most likely an amateur developer, would have the minimum budget prerequisite. You are then set free to produce a specimen that blends in with hypothetical heritage, something that will proudly be erected to retain the homogeneity of the village. Something that, when you walk around in Barsa, will reverberate the echo of an implemented aboriginal concept.

But you would walk around amidst some of the newly constructed patches of Barsa today, and see a pastiche of built objects that hardly hint the peasantly glamour of the Lebanese village. The contemporary village has become a construct of concrete semicircles yearning to be arches, steel truss pyramids clad in red tiles and life-size stone catalogs of stone highlighting the glorious power of eight-dollars-a-meter synthetically manufactured stone.

All these buildings are legal and approved by the Order of Engineers and the Urban Planning Bureau. What seems to be illegal though is to design a building beyond Feiruzian Ululations; the percentages should be met, the materials should be set and the saddest part is that this theatrical architecture is what people want to live in. One of the buildings I set the preliminary design for has a dissymmetrical stone clad pattern, leaving some apartments with stone-free facades. These apartments were not sold. The other side on the other hand, an internally identical plan yet endowed with a stone-clad exterior was sold instantly. The constructed concept of Lebanese architecture is imprinted in the demand force, so the issue does not lie solely with the planning sector, but with the consumption system as a whole. The mainstream construction boom adapting the school of Feiruzian architecture alongwith the need for cheaper, more stereotypical production stunned the spatial instinct of the masses, as dramatic as it sounds. Clients desire their homes in square meters, not in living standards. The specificity of individual life has dissolved in a Heritage-masked building machine.

Amidst this mayhem of production, and skipping the fact that this attempt to reclaim an irreclaimable identity is rendering our living quality pathetic, we are at a point where our cultural production is leaving almost nothing for future retrospect. It is the temporary thrill of imagery and show business that is completely blinding us from our catastrophic status quo. I can blame it on the Feiruzian narcotic, but that will just create another critical dogma; architecture should go back to context. Context here is not just the tangible collectible evidence in a site analysis, but the clients and stakeholders must understand that they are, too, context. When you walk into an old Lebanese house and feel star-struck by its spatial superiority, it doesn’t mean that replicating this old house now would do the trick. An old Lebanese house is not a triple-arched central-hall with a red pitched roof, it’s a product of its contextual reflection. It is made of stone because stone was a building material, not because yellow stone is pretty. It’s composed of arches and vaults because this is the structural system in stone building, not because of a fetish of curvature. Its window scale and ceiling height allow proper lighting and ventilation, and it pitched roof is inclined the way it is to mitigate sedimentation on the roof. The composition works, its imitation and simplification into an aesthetic guideline, on the other hand, doesn’t.

We have passed the tipping point when it comes to the logic of our built fabric, but it’s never too late to reconsider how to go about it. Zoning laws should back off urban vignetting and instead of taking every submitted project to a yes/no checklist it would make more sense to have general guidelines then judge each building entry as a project based on its success in producing viable living standards while relating to its evolving context. People, on the other hand, should accept the fact that there is an individually distinct direct relationship between the places they inhabit and their comfort. It’s not on the a.m. radio, and it’s not an eternal Halloween.