Work title: THE LIBRARY OF UNBABEL
THE LIBRARY OF UNBABEL
1 Now the whole world had various languages and different speeches.
2 As people moved eastward, they found ruins in Shinar [Babylonia] and settled there.
3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s destroy the bricks and recycle them thoroughly.” They used dynamite instead of bulldozers, and wrecking balls.
4 Then they said, “Come, let us unbuild a city, like a tower that reaches to the center of the earth, so that we may make a name for the Lord; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
5 So the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were unbuilding.
6 The Lord said, “If as various people speaking different languages they have begun to do this, then everything they plan to do will be possible for them.
7 Come, let us go down and reunite the people so they will learn from each other.”
8 So the Lord collected them from there over all the earth, and they started establishing a library.
9 That is why it was called Unbabel — because there the Lord reunited the language of the whole world. From there the Lord collected them over the face of the whole earth.
The introduction is based on the story of the Tower of Babel from the Book of Genesis (OT). By reversing the idea from building to unbuilding or demolishing the story illustrates an ironic take on the actual trend and the pleasure of building removal. Also it provokes an allegory of the inverted Tower of Babel as a symbol for reunification.
The project „The Library of Unbabel“ deals with a revitalization of a vacant ruin in the city center of Beirut. Historically the building was commissioned in 1965 and considered as the new Beirut City Center. But due to the outbreak of the civil war in 1975 the building remained unfinished. After decades of disregard the building collected public attention as a monument from time to time because of its iconic egg-shaped shell and the scars of history. In 2010 public protest appeared along with a call to preserve it due to a threat of demolition by local authorities. But how to preserve a building which contains increasing amount of emotional value?
The idea within the project „The Library of Unbabel“ is to use the method of building collapses in order to gradually design the ruin. A reinterpretation of its iconic appearance by taking away instead of adding. Unbuilding as a form of building. Designing by the means of Anti-Design.
Although seemingly chaotic and disorderly, the demolition act itself demands a high level of precision in its execution. Maybe it demands even more exact planning than to construct a building. It is an ‘exacted chaos’, where the destruction of the building requires a specific design method in its own right, and is ultimately a crucial design phase in the building’s lifecycle. This consideration contributes to the spectacle of the demolition and allures people to observe its decay.
Central to the idea of demolition is the creation of two voids in order to provide the subterranean structure below the monument with light and circulation for the intended use as a public library. The aesthetics of rough penetrations caused by the act of demolition are also crucial in order to keep the holistic appearance as a ruin. The library itself activates the basic needs of bringing people together - Sharing knowledge in order to overcome prejudices, especially in a region where conflict seems to be a daily routine.