"Memory for Forgetfulness" (Master's Thesis)
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    Winner of the James Britton Memorial Award for Outstanding Thesis (06.2002)
“Memory for Forgetfulness”:
Registering/Effacing the Memory of the Lebanese War

Architecture, as a synthetic physical act, has long beena common and prevalent means of giving a commemorative presence to memory.However, just like memory, a finite selective process, architecture inescapablyembodies an act of exclusion as well. Moreover, by giving physicality tomemory, architecture offers simultaneously its means of annihilation, thusbecoming an ideal means of achieving its antithesis, oblivion. Hence aninherent relationship emerges between architecture and forgetting that seems toonly parallel the ontological intertwining of memory and forgetfulness. As sucharchitecture, in its vulnerable physicality, becomes an ideal vehicle formemory, as well as its inherent antithesis, forgetting.

Yet the question of memory, andforgetfulness—especially in the particular context of this study, that of theLebanese war—is an essentially political one as well. Why remember? Why forget?What to remember? And what to forget? The arguments generated by thesequestions reveal ethical, social and political necessities, andinevitabilities, for the intertwining of memory and forgetting. Thus a programthat reflects the intertwined relationship between its antagonistic components:one that aims to facilitate forgetting of the memory of the war whileinescapably reminding of it; and one that aims to register the memory of thewar, but inescapably promoting ambivalence towards that memory by means of itsvery intention.

Thesite as well reflects the same antithetical intertwining of memory andforgetting. Situated in the pre-war center of the city of Beirut, the site is saturated with memory ofthe throbbing pre-war life of the city—as well as its destruction, and itspoignant present absence. Being at the eye of the Green Line, the battlefieldzone that divided the city in half during the war, that part of the citywitnessed the heaviest destruction during the war. As a result, in post-war Beirut, that area of thecity has become a gaping void, an immense absence at the heart of the city. Fora whole generation of Lebanese youth, a generation that has known the life ofthe city only in the multiple ‘centers’ that proliferated at its peripheryduring the war, the old heart of Beirut is no more that a blank slate ontowhich their parents’ memories are projected. Thus, in the slowly emerging newlife of this part of the city, memory and oblivion are juxtaposed.