Lebanese Architectural Style: Emergence and Origin

Foreword for Traditional or Vernacular Architectural Style

Traditional architecture, also referred to as classical architecture or more as vernacular architecture is often more sustainable, as it is made with local materials and skills. In this and some other upcoming blog posts, we will explore one of the world's most beautiful traditional architecture: the Lebanese Architectural style; its sources and origins, components, and influences.

This is an Academic Research concerning Lebanese Traditional Architecture, back in the year 1996, divided into four parts, and conducted by professionals.*

  • The information contained in this study is closely related; Therefore, it is much advised to read it sequentially to better understand it as required.

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Lebanese Architecture: Emergence and Origins (Part 1)

In fact, traditional Lebanese Architecture is a mixture of foreign influences and reflections. As we can see, everywhere we walk around in Lebanon, currents are coming from all surroundings and neighboring places, so they slow down to stop by, providing it with new and brilliant features, thus creating and composing the unique Lebanese cultural nature and singularity that is open to all different movements.

There are many questions about the exact origins of true Lebanese architecture's traditional style and its original sources. These traditions may be inspired and borrowed somewhat from the various neighboring countries, such as Syria, Egypt, France, Italy, and many others, that have been in direct contact with Lebanon through a variety of fields and activities, such as commercial trading.

Lebanese Architecture History

Before arriving at the construction of the current traditional house, as we see it today, the oldest Lebanese residents used to settle the many natural rocks and caves, scattered almost everywhere. The oldest of these caves is located near Aadloun, a Southern-Lebanese town, and its name is "the Cave of Al-Bzaz". There is also the cave of Nahr El-Kalb and the caves of Nahr-Ibrahim and Antelias.

Similarly, the ancient man lived in caves in Rass-Beirut. It was noticed that in most of these sites, people have left their stone tools over the sand covering the floor. The period of these caves is about a thousand years ago.

As for the first lined-up stones to form walls or foundations of houses, it was discovered in Palestine about nine thousand and eight hundred years before Christ, not far to the south of Adloun village, mentioned before.

The first residences were marked with several spaces covered with whitewash or calcimine, which is a type of paint made from slaked lime or chalk calcium carbonate, composing the floor with the rectangular dwelling or lodging. It consists of a layer of plaster the size of a fist and is covered with a thick crust of dirt that penetrates all the cracks.

Then it is coated with a thin layer of carbonized lime and carefully polished with huge stones to produce pressure. Then around this floor, a small wall rises based on the foundations of one or two of the selected hollow blocks.

Later, the circular-shaped houses came with stacked floors and were covered with plaster, and the walls were made of two or three stone pillars. In addition to this type of residence, there were rectangular, polygonal, and rounded corner walls. As from the three thousand and two hundred years before Christ, the pivotal base appeared, with its cover resting on one trunk column or two.

By the end of the fourth decade, the constructions turned rectangular but were still primitive. Their walls and the way of building the roofing were established.

At the beginning of the third decade, the buildings consisted of seven columns: six lined up to the perimeter and spread over it, and the seventh was located in the middle of the room which held the crossbar at one-third and was made of a tree trunk. The Lebanese inhabitant continues using the crossbars in the roofing works when he paves it with compacted soil.

Influences that Affected the Emergence of Lebanese Vernacular Architecture

These are two main factors that influence the style behavior: the Cultural and the Natural Environment.

1- The Cultural Environment

The social activity represented in the most important community events includes interviews and daily societies that constitute the main factors and elements in estimating the public properties and progression of ancient cities.

The commercial activity was represented by population movements and their commercial relations, which necessitated the emergence of public and private bars and markets.
⏵Customs and traditions: Society is affected by customs and traditional behaviors that are nothing but residual residue from previous civilizations.
⏵Scientific and technological development: Scientific and technological discoveries affect the human being and their morale so that they match their lifestyle according to this continuous development.

The current movements leave their influences anywhere they land and so do the humans; Cultural currents came from all sides when they stopped in Lebanon, they left their tracks, which accumulated to define the Lebanese ethnic and cultural characteristics.

2- The Natural Environment

The natural environment is considered to be the fixed slit of the general environment where the architecture arises. In Lebanon, it includes the nature of the land, climate, geographical surroundings, geological aspects, and the materials used locally.

As it is well known, Lebanon is formed from a large highland composed of calcareous sediments and it is divided into two parts: the Eastern and the Western series. These two mountain chains have identified a long plain level bottom and volcanic soil valley, which is the Bekaa Valley.

Having that said, the Lebanese Traditional Architecture materials were determined according to the raw materials used in the construction: stones and limestones in the Mount Lebanon region, rough black basalt in Akkar, and soil in the Bekaa.


Then, the architectural features were defined in its materials and shapes: it opened to the fresh breeze in summer and resisted the heavy rains in winter, so it faced the natural severe weather more practically, whether it was the sun, rain, or air.

The multiplication of houses transformed nature into villages or cities, in addition to the crops and roads that were established and agricultural platforms (terraces) that covered the foothills of the mountains.

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Agricultural platforms (terraces) are a characteristic of Lebanese traditional architecture. Photo: Lebanon in a Picture

Materials Used in the Construction

Even the architectural colors of the geometric houses were derived from the materials used for construction: In Akkar for example, the dark colors symbolized the color of volcanic basalt that in the past flooded all over the earth.

As for the Bekaa Valley, it has been transformed into an engineered carpet that contains the fields planted with the village architecture of the red brick tiled under the sun's rays. Sandstone and limestone were widely used along the Phoenician shore, especially in Byblos city. As for Sidon and Tyre, the houses were built from soft limestone.

Also in Beirut, where limestone was replaced with sandstone. Some Lebanese later imported marble stone from Greece to build and decorate religious buildings and palaces.

Video showing the beauty of Lebanese Traditional Houses

Following, I will share a short video from a YouTuber, showing multiple Lebanese classical architecture houses within a nicely arranged photo album; Unfortunately, most of them are destroyed by time and nature factors. The locations are various from miscellaneous towns and villages in Lebanon. It is entitled "The Best Lebanese Homes".

© All rights reserved to the owner.

The aim of sharing this video is to familiarize our new generation with the precious heritage that our ancestors left behind and to encourage them to use it and develop it in line with modernity. It is so sad in fact, to see those old houses in this state of deterioration once they were shining before with beauty and brilliance. Hopefully, it will be a simulator for the next generation to act in the right direction in the future.

In conclusion, traditional architecture is a popular style that is of popular usage recently in many buildings around the world. It is a time-honored approach to building design that incorporates a variety of tried-and-true methods.

While it may not be the most cutting-edge approach, it can be a great option for those who value stability and reliable results. This style is characterized by its symmetry, formal lines, and traditional materials.

If you like traditional architecture in general, be sure to follow our blog for more related and interesting topics and information.

References in this Article:

- Architecture in Lebanon by Friedrich Ragette, Published by Caravan Books, New York, 1980

Want to own this valuable book? The chance is yours! Quantities are very limited! Order Today!


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