This exhibition showcases three institutions in the Arab world that hold and preserve architecture archives. It is conceived as a journey that highlights some items and projects in their collections and uncovers stories around them. The purposefully chosen institutions are very different in nature and scale. Their statutes and scope of work are diverse. Yet, they share the common objective of making available for experts and for the large public a number of documents ranging from drawings, to photographs, to correspondence, to a variety of items that document architectural production.
The three institutions
The Arab Center for Architecture (ACA) in Beirut is a non-governmental association created in 2008 dedicated to the preservation of modern architecture and its archives. It also acts as a platform for debate on architecture and the built environment and holds a specialized library open to the public and an online database on modern architecture in the Arab World.
The Rare Books and Special Collections at the American University in Cairo (AUC) documents the architectural heritage of modern Egypt and the Middle East through the work of its Regional Architecture Collections (RAC) unit. The RAC holds plans, drawings, photographs and other material from 20th-century leading architects such as Hassan Fathy, Ramses Wissa Wassef, Sayed Karim, Gamal Bakry among others.
Archives du Maroc in Rabat is a public national institution that recently started to accept donations of architectural archives, rightly acknowledging the publicness of architecture and its documentation. In addition to the collection of Patrice de Mazières covering his work with Abdeslam Faraoui, the institution holds the archives of architects Jacqueline Alluchon and Abderrahim Sijelmassi.
The unbuilt Arab world
Along with preserving the personal and collective memory covering the built environment, and telling us about the circumstances that accompanied and produced the built form, architecture archives are also a repository of buildings, neighborhoods and cities that never saw the light. This exhibition is an opportunity to speak about aborted projects and bring them to life. Whether abandoned due to political changes, mismanagement, economic reasons or personal vagaries, unbuilt designs tell us about what could have been. Five projects are re-presented here in drawings and physical models. At a time when three-dimensional representation is almost reduced to digital renderings and animations, visitors are invited here to a sensorial journey in which the appreciation of a sketch, a detailed drawing or a photograph is enhanced with an experiential interaction with a physical model built at a relevant scale.
Three documentaries were commissioned for the occasion as an integral part of the exhibition. Filmed on site in Beirut, Cairo, Rabat and Casablanca, they invite the viewer to participate in a journey back and forth between archival material and actual visits to relevant buildings to examine their current condition.
The exhibition is the start of a long-term vision that will unfold in a variety of research projects, including a database locating archival material on Architecture in the Arab World that will cover public and private institutions both in the Arab World and beyond. It is hoped that the gathering and dissemination of such research will open up more areas of investigation for scholars and attract more public interest.
The exhibition is on view everyday from 9am-9pm (except Fridays 2pm-9pm) until Sunday 16 July, 2023. Admission is free and open to all. To arrange a guided tour of the exhibition, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sharjah Architecture Triennial
Arab Center for Architecture
Rana Zureikat and Arab Center for Architecture
Written and directed by George Arbid
Beirut: Fadi Yeni Turk
Rabat-Casablanca: Chadi Ilias, George Arbid
Cairo: George Arbid, Ola Seif, Mahy Mourad
Creative Editor Carine Doumit
Online Editor Chadi Dib
SAT Graphic Design team: Fermin Guerrero, Zaynab Kriouech
Sharjah: Hoor Al Qasimi, Mona El Mousfy, Sahil Abdul Latheef, Aishwarya Sriram, Yousef Taalab, Abanob Ataia, Yaala Younis, Anum Laghari, Rowaida Badawieh, Vikshitha Gundmi
Beirut: Yasmina Abi Mahmoud, Rudina Antoun, Alfred Aramouni, Paola Faddoul, Nour Nahra, Angélique Gerbaca, Roucoz el Hajj, Mariam Amhaz, Fatima Abu Al Nasr, Yousof Diab
Cairo: Balsam Abdul Rahman, Ola Seif, Ahmed Abdelazim, Dalila ElKerdany, Ibrahim Karim, Mahy Mourad, Asmaa El Halwagy
Rabat: Pauline de Mazières, Faraoui family, Maud Houssais, Imad Dahmani, Lahbib Moumni
Archives du Maroc: Ahmed Youbi, Aziz Ghachouch