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Thursday, January 30, 2020

Lebanese Architecture Throughout History (1) | Origins, And Stages

Introduction, Disclaimer

This is an Academic study about Lebanese Architecture, back to the year 1996, divided into four parts.

The information contained in this research is closely related since it is advisable to read it in a sequential manner in order to better understand it as required.

The Emergence of Lebanese Architecture (Origins)

In fact, Traditional Lebanese Architecture is a mixture of foreign influences and reflections.

As we can see everywhere we walk around in Lebanon, there are currents 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 the true Lebanese Architecture traditions and their original sources.
These traditions may be inspired and borrowed somewhat from the various neighboring countries which have been in direct contact with Lebanon through several things and activities, such as Syria, Egypt, France, Italy, and many others...

The Stages Which Lebanese Architecture Went Through

Before arriving at the construction of the Lebanese House, as we see it today, the oldest Lebanese Man used to inhabit the many natural rocks 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.

Likewise, the ancient man lived in caves in Rass-Beirut.

It was noticed that in most of these areas, people have left his stone tools over the sand covering the floor. The time 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 and 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 of 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 by 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 corners 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.

As for the end of the fourth decade, the constructions turn to 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 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.


The factors that contributed to the emergence and development of the Lebanese Architecture

They are two main factors: the Cultural Environment 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 the main elements in estimating the public properties 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 traditions that are nothing but residual residue from past civilizations.
- Scientific and technological development: The scientific and technological discoveries affect the human being and his morale so that he matches his lifestyle according to this continuous development.

The current movements leave their influences anywhere they land and so are the humans; Cultural currents coming from all sides when they stopped in Lebanon, they left their tracks, which accumulate 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 plateau 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 this said, the Lebanese Architecture was determined according to the raw materials used in the construction: stone and limestone in Mount Lebanon, 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 in a more practical way, whether it was the sun, rain, or air...

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

Building materials

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 previously 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 rays.

As for sandstone and limestone, it was 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.

References in this Article:

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



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