The Abandoned Fairgrounds by Oscar Niemeyer
Edited by: Sundos Abu Reyal
Photos by Herskhazeen
In 1963, Oscar Niemeyer was commissioned by the Lebanese government to design a complex for international fairgrounds in Tripoli, Lebanon. The work on the 10,000 hectares was interrupted at its mid-construction by the Lebanese civil war in 1975.
In 2006 the complex was added to the World Monuments Fund’s list of 100 most endangered sites, to call attention to the neglect years it has experienced and to turn the site into a theme park for the public and tourist. Later on, the fairground was renamed the Rashid Karameh Fair, in honor of the former Lebanese prime minister.
The site comprises 15 buildings, based on modern urban planning ideals. Simple reinforced concrete forms surrounded by reflecting pools -that are empty now-, typical of much of Niemeyer’s work. Niemeyer rejected the common typology, repeated all over the world, with isolated pavilions, and returned the ideas of nineteenth-century expositions of unity, so that the pavilions of the various countries would be arranged under single roof.
The Main Portico
The main access to the fair is situated at one end of the ‘great pavilion’. A vast ramp leads to the entrance portico, where the visitor can have a whole view of the entire complex. The adjoining structure was planned by Niemeyer as a rest center.
The Main Exhibition Space
With Neimeyer’s intention to join all of nations in one pavilion. The boomerang-shaped cover stretches 640m in length and 70m in width and is supported by two rows of columns placed 45m from each other. The distance between two columns is 17m. The boomerang is in fact an arc of 300m with straight stretches of 170m in length at both ends.
The Lebanese Pavilion
The Lebanese pavilion represents Neimeyer’s modern interpretation of the Lebanese architecture. The square colonnaded pavilion with pointed arches references Tripoli’s historic architecture.
The Experimental Theater
The white concrete dome is the Experimental Theatre, surrounded by lush vegetation and hosts approximately 1000 seats.
The Gate Arch
At the highest point of the ramp, marking the entrance to the theater’s elevated, open-air foyer, stands a concrete gate arch, counterbalanced by a water tower with a restaurant at its highest point. The large ceremonial ramp, equipped with an acoustic shell leads to the open-air theater.
The Housing Section
The Housing Section was positioned at the opposite extreme of the ‘the main portico’, the hotels were added a later time after the civil war. Administration services were accommodated in two separate blocks, parallel to the convex side of the long canopy.
The Housing Section supposed to include a hotel and the Housing Museum. A several detached individual houses are also noticeable on the site.
The helipad-crowned Space Museum is accessed via a long low bridge that stems from the center of the curved exhibition pavilion.
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