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Memorial of the fallen

Karl Matta

(This project was created before the events of the explosion in Beirut of August 4th, 2020, which catastrophe adds to the need of such type of Memorial place that will help to heal the deep wounds originated in the various conflicts, wars and catastrophes encountered in Lebanon and that has resulted in a number of martyrs from all side, along with a considerable amount of handicaped people deemed as living martyrs hence the family of such Martyrs)

Why Creating a Memorial museum that aim to impact positively the human being while it shows deep trauma, ugliness of the acts of human being and death? The Point of view differs from people to people and even from country to country. Despite all what happened in Lebanon, the Lebanese population still loves to enjoy life and live it to the fullest. Deep down an anger and depression is suppressed just to endure and forget the harsh truth.
The Project that I am submitting to your esteemed committee constitue an antithesis to this whole competition, however, I strongly believe that such kind of Project will help the human mind in a positive and creative way because behind the message of hope that the Project brings by the help of the senses generated inside this “Therapeutical Memorial”.

Why a Memorial for Martyrs
Every person has experienced some kind of trauma in their lifetime, yet the most traumatic thing that has affected Lebanese society is “The subsequent Wars”. This trauma is caused by the shelling, the loss of loved ones, loss of work, loss of homes, loss of human parts, loss of dignity, loss of human common sense, and the loss of emotions. Each person has a war that affects them more than another. For example, my father lost his own father who was killed along with other people from his village in the demolishing of a church were they hid during the last war; on the other hand, my mother was shot by a sniper in her face and the bullet still resides there to this day. (as Shown in the first Board the Cranial CT scan of my mum’s head)
The trauma is transmitted indirectly from generation to another by the new way of life and the new precautions. After the end of the war, society goes into post-trauma, into a phase of denial, it tries to forget everything that happened for a better future as soon as possible. Even in the architectural context, as in the social context, to repair these scars, the treatment according to the people is either:
- Restore what was lost to its pre-war state, i.e. the idea of restoring "normalcy", where normal is the way of life lost as a result of war.
- Either demolish damaged buildings, erase all traces of tradition and build something entirely new. It will be very costly financially; where the new one could be something drastically different or updated from the old.
These two principles reflect the desire to return to normal life and to forget the trauma suffered by violence and destruction.
But there is a 3rd phase of rehabilitation which combines the past with the future through a transplant, e.g. taking as a reference the man wounded during the war. It will leave a mark, a scar, but even a man with an amputated leg will not be replaced by a new version nor returned to its previous version but he is grafted or installed a prosthetic leg.

Why the city of Souk Al Gharb? This city was a popular tourist destination for wealthy families, whether local or foreignor, before 1975, Souk Al Gharb was famous for hosting several important schools and educational institutions in Lebanon. Considered to be an important mountain station, Souk Al Gharb became a crossroad around the region of Aley and the synthesis of the Lebanese wars. The chosen building is a school built in 1965 for Palestinian refugees giving a direct opening towards the sea, the airport and the green surroundings. Located in a strategic spot, the Lebanese military forces has used it during the last war as the last line of defense against invaders to defend the remaining areas under their control, and they both, the deffensers and the structure, stood still unaltered like the will of the Lebanese people.
This is why I am referring in my concept, that the building represents “the country”, and its structure represents “society”; during the war a parasite infiltrated the people, exploded by changing the structure of its people and dislocated them from their entourage.

My project does not show a preference or a religion, it is the people who are right. We all cry, scream, and lose. I am not designing a simple memorial or a simple exhibition, BUT a REHABILITATION SYSTEM for any person affected whether coming from a different country, different religion or even different political party; it could help them experience the war from their own perspectives and points of views depending on their experiences in their lives. The SPECTATOR becomes the ACTOR. The goal is to present the image that all Lebanese society has in common, from which the museum becomes A UNIFYING POINT.
But in order to be able to unify and be reconciled with others, one of the most important phases of rehabilitation is RECONCILIATION WITH THEMSELVES. For this phase to be acquired, the project and its route must PROVOKE the visitor and lead him to remove all destruction and horror that reside in his unconscious and throw them out on the unconscious of the building "ITS STRUCTURE".

This memorial is dedicated to the MEMORY OF THE MARTYRES and undergoes 3 phases in its journey:

The first axis (the straight and horizontal axis) refers to the axis of HISTORY divided into 5 phases:
- The first the wars 1975-1977,
- The second from 1977-1982,
- The third 1982-1984,
- The fourth 1984-1990,
- And the fifth from 1990 -...
The war never ends, each day the conflicts worsen, a new challenge arises and new martyrs lose their lives. The cages, on the north Elevation, refer to two types of injured characters: the first after being sewn up feels “scarred for life” while the second feels “relieved that the wound is sealed”. The exterior cages have a role of “attracting towards a Zen space” while the interior cages have a role of “imprisonment effect” referred to the war.

The second axis (the curved part of the building) refers to the axis of SUFFERANCE where, the spongy and rough texture dominates; the use of rustic metal creates an odor that resembles blood in contact with oxygen. The 5 senses will play a role in creating an exceptional experience for each individual according to their own memories, folds will be folded, refolded, and unfolded leaving traces. The course of the first axis will be forced like the history that has been forced on its people and the intersection of the two axis is a ball joint which is a TRANSITION SPACE: either from one PHASE OF WAR to ANOTHER, or from one PHASE to CONSEQUENCES, or even from a PHASE to A RESTING SPACE.

The finality of the course is located under the gigantic floating blob hanging on the structure of society and its position is a metaphor that the parasite will crush the people who aim for obscurity and denial. Hence the spectator becomes the actor and will have the choice to either remain in the darkness and the depression state, or to face oneself and to come to terms with his life.

Each person has their own way of treating their cracks and psychological scars; it maybe through meditation, or by referring to a psychologist or by interacting with loved ones. For example after the death of my grandfather my father drew inspiration from the war to create his own style of art. Hence the 3rd most important phase of the project: the social interaction after the course, which will dislocate the building with its site and create a park. A kind of module hanging on the facades of the building will be formed, which are offices for the psychologists, and workshops so that people can reject all kinds of disappointment and anxiety and transform it into art like sculpture, painting, graffiti ...
The park created contains coffin-like shapes that will be enlightened and brightened in the dark; it will create an atmosphere and a metaphor to interact with the spirits and souls of the loved ones that we lost.

These spaces will revitalize the near-dead city, and will help students in the faculties of fine arts, history, and psychology internships which they’ll experiment with real cases.

Hence the goal of the project is that the spectator remembers his past, educates his present and warns his future for a better one, by referring to the dislocation of the project in relation to its entourage, the dislocation of the people in relation to their country and the dislocation of souls from their bodies.

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