LiBeirut: UNESCO takes urgent action to secure two historic buildings in Beirut

The UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund has allocated US$ 100,000 to ensure the urgent securing of two historic buildings affected by the devastating explosions that hit the city on 4 August 2020 destroying the port of Beirut and the surrounding area, including the historic neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhail – the Boustany House built in 1880 and Tobbagi House built in 1908 on Mar Mikhael Street in Beirut. This urgent action is part of the Organization’s efforts to safeguard cultural heritage and revive cultural life in Beirut.

“We intend to spare no efforts to support the citizens of Beirut and the Lebanese people to recover from this tragedy,” said Ernesto Ottone R., UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture. “While needs range from the reconstruction of infrastructure, to the recovery of daily life in all its aspects, we consider that the revival of culture and the rehabilitation of heritage represent valuable tools for the healing of communities”.

Led by UNESCO, this emergency response is undertaken in collaboration with the Directorate General of Antiquities of Lebanon (DGA) and other international organisations. Working with local experts, the rapid procurement and installation of the materials required to ensure the reinforcement and sheltering of the buildings will be undertaken, with the aim of completing the work within the next two weeks.

“Both buildings have lost all their doors and windows in addition to their traditional tiled roofs” explained Dr Sarkis Khoury, Director-General of the DGA. “The imminent arrival of the rainy season in Lebanon has exacerbated the need for a rapid intervention, as the explosions have left much of the built heritage exposed to the elements, and there is therefore an urgent need to shelter these historical buildings in order to prevent the risk of infiltration and water damage.” He also noted that, without the completion of this crucial work, not only “will we have higher expenses in terms of restoration, but we may see some buildings crumble to pieces.”

The support that the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund is providing for Lebanon is part of the Organization’s initiative “LiBeirut”, launched on 27 August 2020 by Director-General Audrey Azoulay. Li Beirut aims to support the rehabilitation of schools, heritage buildings, museums, galleries, and the revival of cultural life and creative economy of Beirut.

The Heritage Emergency Fund is a multi-donor mechanism which enables UNESCO to respond rapidly and effectively to crises resulting from armed conflicts and disasters caused by natural and human-made hazards all over the world.