ICOMOS Heritage Alert - Beirut Grain Silos

beirut blast 3 1024x768ICOMOS supports the expression of concern issued by ICOMOS Lebanon, as representatives of the heritage community in their country, with regards to the latest decision by the Lebanese government ordering the demolition of the Beirut Grain Silos, a remarkable modern heritage monument and engineering work, but also a significant place in the collective memory of the population of Lebanon and Beirut in particular.

On 4 August 2020, one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions in history took place in Beirut harbour, generating a blast wave which ripped through the capital. The explosion killed more than 220 persons, leaving a further 6000 injured and 300 000 homeless.

In the news coverage, the crumbling grain silos that had absorbed the blast were to become the emblematic image of an event that shook not only Lebanon but the entire world.

Today, their possible demolition reveals a society torn between amnesia and the need to preserve this landmark, as a symbol of this tragedy which has left an indelible mark in the nation’s psyche. The silos, and all the heritage buildings that were affected by the blast, are the visual representatives of this collective memory, that is now a part of the Lebanese nation’s history.

Demolishing the silos, removing this landmark, and creating a physical void, will give the impression of an absence of space and only serve to enhance psychological amnesia.

The significance of this structure lies in what it symbolizes through its history.

ICOMOS calls for an immediate reversal of the decision to demolish the Beirut Grain Silos and for them to be officially legally registered as a protected national historic building, including the designation of a surrounding buffer zone.

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Photo credits: 
First image: Beirut Grain Silos after the blast © Dia Mrad
Second image: Aerial view of the site ©  Rami Rizk

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