Rafael Moneo’s Beirut Souks Explored in Photographs by Bahaa Ghoussainy
When Spanish architect Rafael Moneo won the Pritzker Prize in 1996, the jury identified his ability to see buildings as lasting built entities—their lives extending beyond architectural drawings—as integral to his success. The South Souks, Moneo’s 2009 project in Beirut, Lebanon, indeed responds to a long history and anticipates a lasting future. After the city’s historic souq (outdoor marketplace) was destroyed during the Lebanese Civil War, developer Solidere began rebuilding the commercial area in 1991. As part of the project, Moneo designed an arcaded shopping district that follows the ancient Hellenistic grid and retains original street names.
Photographs of Moneo’s building by Lebanese architectural photographer Bahaa Ghoussainy reveal both the historical grounding of the space and its clear modernity. Light-imbued images feature blurred visitors as they move fluidly between outdoor and indoor commercial space, just like they would have in the original souq. Others frame Moneo’s building in contrast with its older surroundings; as his sleek new facade breathes modernity into the historic quarter, its palette and scale nonetheless mimic and respect existing structures.