Fragments from the Ridgeline


Commissioned for “The place that remains”, Pavilion of Lebanon, Venice Biennale of Architecture, 2018, curated by Hala Younes

From Autumn 2017 to Spring 2018, I have travelled in search for the line that draws the limits of the Nahr Beirut – Beirut River – watershed. The ridgeline traverses a multiplicity of territories and environments that evolve from remote wilderness to densely urban, considering that in Mount Lebanon, habitat has traditionally spread on ridges rather than in valleys.

Within this variety of landscapes and narratives, my photographic exploration generated a collection fragments and traces of past and present human activities. The approach followed Michel Foucault’s thought that “archaeology is much more willing than the history of ideas to speak of discontinuities, ruptures, gaps, entirely new forms of positivity, and of sudden redistributions.”[1] Relating with dereliction, void, and uselessness, many of these traces are symptomatic of the territory’s history. At various points, the ridgeline matches or crisscrosses the demarcation lines of fighting from the 19th and 20th century wars. As Nabil Beyhum reminds, “the first demarcation line that Lebanon has known separated the Druze caïmacamat [district] from the Maronite caïmacamat. This line, that follows the path of the Damascus road [on the Southern side of the valley], was supposed to separate the two rival communities in the control of the rural space.”[2] Though, conflicts are not the only factors affecting the land. Economic and demographic growth and decline are not less present.

The collected traces might be almost invisible, like a field of mines in the courtyard of an abandoned hotel, irrigation water pipes on mountain slopes or a gigantic quarry off the road. They might also be incongruous, such as a basketball backboard among the trees or a derelict colorful military post. Like in Stephane Mallarmé’s affirmation that “Nothing will have taken place but the place, except a constellation”, all are insignificant and noteworthy at the same time, proposing infinity of interpretations and possibilities.

[1] Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language, trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith (New York: Pantheon Books, 1972), 169.
[2]Nabil Beyhum, “Les démarcations au Liban d’hier à aujourd’hui,” in Le Liban Aujourd’hui (Paris: CNRS Editions, 1994), 276–77.


Venice, The Place that Remains, Pavilion of Lebanon La Biennale di Venezia, 16. Mostra Internazionale di Architettura 
>> The Lebanese Pavilion in the website of the Venice Biennale

- The Place that Remains. Recounting the Unbuilt Territory

online documentation
Venice Documentation Project

video interview
- Gregory Buchakjian at the Lebanese Pavilion, Venice Architecture Biennale

 selected reviews & media

- Monocle, 07'06'2018
- Designboom, 21'05'2018
- L'Orient-Le Jour, 31'05'2018
Floornature, 12'09'2018
Archdaily, 12'05'2018
- InExhibit, 26'07'2018
- L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, 11'05'2018

related project
- A Journey of Loss

 ©gregory buchakjian. all rights reserved