BEIRUT’S GRAIN SILOS: AN ARCHITECTURAL MONUMENT, A SHIELD FOR THE CITY AND A MEMORIAL FOR SURVIVORS

Photo credit Ⓒ Sophie Woeldgen, 2021

OurWorldHeritage recognises the grain silos, including the site of the blast, as a place of collective memory and strongly supports the adoption of a non-demolition approach of the Beirut Grain Silos.

OurWorldHeritage calls for the public consultation of civil society, as well as a group of local heritage experts, the Order of Engineers and Architects of Beirut, ICOMOS Lebanon, DOCOMOMO Lebanon and the Beirut Urban Declaration, in their campaign to preserve the Beirut Grain Silos as a monument.

On August 4th, 2020, one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions in history hit the heart of Lebanon’s capital Beirut. In a split second, more than 220 people were killed, 6,000 were injured, and 300,000 people became homeless. Next to the epicenter of the explosion stood Beirut’s Grain Silos, one of the country’s biggest grain storage units, and a landmark of Modern Heritage. The building absorbed significant impact, which prevented additional damage to the Western part of the city. In the aftermath of the event, the ruined silos became an international icon in national and international news outlets, and gave a face to the devastating implications of the explosion. The silos ultimately became a beacon of hope to citizens of Beirut, a monument of survival and memory. Nearly 2 years later, the Ministry of Culture released a decree to list the structure as a heritage building, which would safeguard its future existence (March 18th 2022, decree no. 49/2022).

Barely a month after the Ministry’s decision, the Lebanese Cabinet reversed its support for protection of the Silos. On April 14th, the Cabinet approved a plan for demolition of the silos, in order to clear the area for future developments, including an ‘alternative monument’. Since then, local civil society has fought to safeguard this monument, calling for help from international heritage experts and the heritage community.

Considering the ample civil society actions in Beirut, as well as the immediate and irreversible threat of demolishing the Beirut Silos, OurWorldHeritage considers: 

  • that the grain silos have irreplaceable values as a shield of impact, as a witness of the blast, and as a symbol of collective memory;
  • that further demolition would cause extensive suffering and trauma;
  • that an entire generation of citizens is marked by the atrocity of the explosions, and should become a stakeholders in the further development of the site.