The Rashid Karami International Fair was designed by the famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1962 as a permanent fairground and exhibition center. However, the outbreak of the civil war and its aftermath hindered the fairground completion and its later development. Despite its unfinished state, the Fairground is considered one of the most iconic architectural projects of the modern period in Lebanon. It includes over 15 structures, which vary between exhibition spaces, pavilions, theaters, museums, and residences. Although belonging to a coherent whole, the functional variation of the structures is accompanied with the distinction of the architectural forms; giving each structure a unique architectural identity. Despite the current deteriorated state of some of its structures, the Fairground made its way to the World Heritage Indicative List in 2018.
Repairs are currently needed in a curtail manner to ensure the survival of this modern legacy. However, prior to any physical repairs, restoration or development initiative, a consensus on a general conservation policy is essential. Similar policies are usually compiled within a planning document known as Conservation Management Plan. Such a plan acts as a guiding tool for property owners and managers to have informed decisions related to the future conservation and development of the Fairground.
With the support of the Getty Foundation’s “Keeping It Modern” initiative, 2018, UNESCO Beirut Office is collaborating with a team of local and international experts, to undertake the necessary research and studies needed to develop a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for the Rashid Karami International Fair (RKIF). This planning document will study the context and state the significant aspects and diverse values of the Fairground. Discussing the impacts and vulnerabilities over its physical fabric and devising the appropriate conservation policies necessary to retain what is significant about the RKIF in any future restoration or reuse plan.
The Development of the RKIF_CMP will be based on the data collected through archival research, oral history, field evaluation of the physical fabric, the interest of local stakeholders in addition to the needs of Tripoli as an urban entity. Before going forward with a future vision, it is necessary to study the historical background of the Fairground, its current general condition, and governance structure. This process, will enable the development of the guiding principles and conservation policies that fit the local context and encourages the development of Niemeyer’s ‘Rashid Karami International Fair’ without jeopardizing its integrity and authenticity.
Based on the above, the RKIF_CMP project adopts a participatory approach through the involvement of the Fair’s administration and other major stakeholders towards the preservation of the Niemeyer designed structures and landscape.
The aim of the RKIF_CMP project, is to prepare the appropriate Conservation Management Plan for the RKIF. Prohibiting/Avoiding any future faux pas concerning structural repairs or any upcoming development, the set Plan ensures that any intervention is carried out within the framework of international conservation policies adopted by UNESCO while responding to the local needs.
The CMP aims at:
- Understanding the diverse values of the Fairground
- Addressing the current technical issues, impacts, vulnerabilities, constraints and opportunities.
- Developing the guiding policies that preserve what is significant about the Fairground.
- Identifying possible adaptive reuse strategies towards the compatible development of the Fairground.
Primarily beginning with the research-based study, the first phase involves a number of steps from gathering information through archival research, to oral history and field investigation. The field research then closely assesses the current condition of fabric, construction techniques and materials used. Furthermore, the research highlights the Fair's character defining features and qualities, the management structure (legal and administrative), in addition to the potential involved stakeholders.
The analysis of the results assists in the understanding of the context and the elaboration on the myriad values of the fairground that need to be protected or preserved; including the aesthetic, architectural, technical, social, urban, economic and cultural values. Therefore, allowing the UNESCO team to draft the conservation policies that best protect the authenticity and character of the place and respond to the local context; hence, standardizing the conservation approach and procedure.
The CMP document will:
- Assist the decision makers to take informed decisions towards better management of imminent change.
- Contribute to the proper restoration and development of the fair
- Contribute to the efforts of the State Party towards the inscription of the RKIF on the World Heritage List.
The RKIF_CMP project is a pilot project in Lebanon, through which UNESCO aims to set the standards, provide guidelines suitable for the local context, and encourage future similar practices for all types of heritage buildings.
Areas of intervention
The project encourages national stakeholders to take into account safeguarding the cultural significance of the Fair while linking its function with the sustainable urban development goals of the City of Tripoli.
The Conservation Management Plan is a document that provides guidance for better conservation and management of this modern cultural heritage site.
Contributing to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals in urban contexts, the CMP sets a course of action for future development policies and strategies of the city and the site itself. In particular, the project shall contribute to SDG 11, mainly target 11.4: Strengthening efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural heritage.