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“The fifteen years of civil war did not produce as much damage as the few seconds did on August 4th.”

On the evening of August 4, 2020, Beirut—the capital of Lebanon and one of the oldest cities in the world—experienced a devastating explosion, when more than two and a half tons of ammonium nitrate detonated at its port on the Mediterranean Sea. The explosion was felt across the region, killing nearly two hundred and injuring and displacing thousands more, many of whom were already struggling to cope with the effects of a global pandemic and economic crisis. Settlement in Beirut dates to the Bronze Age, and this long history has made the city a vibrant cultural center for thousands of years. The immense destruction caused by the recent explosion threatens not only Beirut’s built cultural heritage but also its social fabric.

In this episode, Lebanese architect Fares el-Dahdah discusses the crisis in Beirut, the dangers facing people, communities, and buildings, and the innovative responses underway. El-Dahdah is a professor of architecture and director of the Humanities Research Center at Rice University, Houston, Texas. He is currently living in Beirut.

Port of Beirut, Lebanon, left in ruins after explosion.

Damages to the port of Beirut, Lebanon, August 9, 2020. Photo: Mehr News Agency. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

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JAMES CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno, President of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art and Ideas, a podcast in which I speak to artists, conservators, authors, and scholars about their work.
FARES EL-DAHDAH: The fifteen years of civil war did not produce as much damage as the few seconds...

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This post is part of Art + Ideas, a podcast in which Getty president Jim Cuno talks with artists, writers, curators, and scholars about their work.
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