When news broke of Oscar Niemeyer’s death today, I immediately thought of Tripoli, where the famed Brazilian architect was commissioned to build a fairground in the early 1960s.
But the completion of the sprawling project, known as The International Fairground of Tripoli, was interrupted by the Lebanese civil war in 1975.
Niemeyer, who is best known for his design of the United Nations tower in New York, was fond of angular shapes. He was influenced by the curves of women and the mountains of Brazil, according to a report that just aired on BBC World.
Today the unfinished fairground is largely abandoned; the chairs of its stadiums empty:
Its domes dark and unlit, were reportedly used by the war’s beligerents to store weapons…
but on top, serve as a playground today:
And at the old gates– still intact–a few bicycles are for rent:
Despite a handful of youngsters, the place was largely quiet.
In many ways the fairground, frozen in time, is a metaphor for the stagnation the country has faced since the end of the civil war in 1991.
In the post-war period, secondary cities like Tripoli have largely been ignored by the government, and in its absence, militias have once again taken to the streets, leading to a number of clashes over recent years.
Post-war development has focused on Beirut and renowned architects such as Philipe Stark and Jean Nouvel have been brought in once again. But unlike Neimeyer’s structure, today’s celebrity architects have been been commissioned to build elite apartment towers and high end malls.
The idea that great structures could be designed for public use, seems increasingly irrelevant to Beirut’s current business and political leadership.