17 000: Memorial for the Missing

The notion of memorials remains a thorny discussion given the complex history of the Lebanese civil war. The cause of the missing is equally controversial. The number of Lebanese missing exceeds 17000. Their fate remains unrevealed to this day. The memorial is a subtle intervention in the context of a highly active public space within the city. It is a restrained surgical intervention that creates a spiritual experience for the unsuspecting. Imagine yourself jogging on the seaside and you suddenly find yourself on a gentle ramp that takes you below the pedestrian walkway. For a few minutes you experience the act of going missing, isolated in this curving elongated underground space. The exit is elusive as the memorial mimics the topography of the land and curves, concealing the way out. On a curved glass wall, images of all those missing are present. If and when the fate of a missing person is revealed, closure is achieved by removing the person’s image from the glass. The emptiness is an act of closure. The remaining images allude to the work left to be accomplished. And the empty expansive glass extends to hold the stories and fate of all those that will one day go missing. The memorial lifts 50cms above the sidewalk to create an 85 meters long public bench. It hence becomes a bench of unity, a bench that brings people of different beliefs, confessions and political ideas to sit side by side united and contemplate on their shared history and ultimately the future that binds them. As the bench lifts it allows the sunlight of the setting sun to filter into the memorial space below as a spiritual gesture. The bench is etched creating circular recesses that collect rainwater. As the Beirut sun emerges from behind the clouds, the bench dries up but a series of circular pockets retain the rain, a succession of miniature water pools is what remains. On the sidewalk footprints of the rooms below create smaller resting social zones for the passersby further enhancing the public space.

17 000: Memorial for the Missing / Beirut, Lebanon / 2014 / 1200sqm

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