Architecture in Lebanon by Friedrich Ragette
(Extracts from the book)
I- Influencing Factors
Republic of Lebanon is situated along the eastern
Mediterranean coast at 35' latitude, with a length
of about 250 km and an average width of 60 km. The
chain of Mount Lebanon determines the character of
the country, for its position parallel to the coast
controls climate and rainfall. Altitudes which range
from zero to 3000 meters allow the existence of a
varied landscape. The double mountain ranges and their
increased aridity to the east have discouraged traffic
with the hinterland, and to this day accentuate the
western orientation of the coastal dwellers. Above
all, the mountains' formation, carved by numerous
deep valleys cutting across the western slopes, constitute
a separating element which until recently hindered
a centralized administration of the country.
is not surprising, therefore, that large-scale architectural
enterprises were undertaken during the rule of foreign
powers, such as the Roman, and though these frequently
reveal strong local characteristics, they are nonetheless
of foreign origin. Independent Lebanese architecture
is limited to residential construction and to modest
religious and public buildings.
Geology and Natural Building Materials
Jurassic Times, the Lebanon was covered by the sea
which slowly deposited various sediments. In the Tertiary
Period vigorous folds occurred, the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon
range appeared and the sea receded.
mountains consist of many strata, usually sandstone
between limestone, and are cut up by numerous clefts.
In the Kesruan and El-Meten district the gray upper
layer of limestone has been eroded and the multicolored
sandstone is exposed. In the north we find large deposits
of basalt in a previously volcanic region. Because
of the presence of many valleys and gorges all geologic
strata are easily accessible. This has encouraged
the decorative use of varying types of stone in Lebanese
high plain of the Beqa'a, lying between the Lebanon
and Anti-Lebanon ranges, has alluvial characteristics.
The deep soil is excellent for farming, and irrigation
ensures a sufficient water supply. Because of the
altitude of the plain (averaging 1000 meters), the
adjacent mountains do not seem very rugged. The presence
of clay and water in combination with a fairly dry
climate allows the use of mud brick (adobe) construction.
mountains of the Lebanon were originally the most
densely wooded area of the Near East. The Bible extols
the cedar as a symbol of strength and endurance; it
is one of the saddest aspects of Lebanon that this
wealth has been almost totally lost. For centuries,
timber for construction has been limited to poplar,
willow, walnut and maple, which grow along the riverbanks.
When mulberries were planted during the time of silk
production their wood was also widely used. In some
areas there are also fairly large groves of pine trees.
In swampy spots we find reeds, which have always been
used with mud in construction. Another material is
chaff, the residue from primitive threshing methods
using sleighs. Mixed with clay or mud it acts as a
bonding agent which prevents the formation of cracks.
Yearly climatic cycle in Lebanon consists of rainy
winters with snow down to 1000 meters, early spring
with the last rainfall in May, four hot, dry summer
months, and a mild autumn with little rainfall. According
to the geographic structure, four climatic zones may
be distinguished: coast, western slopes, high mountains
and the Beqa'a plain. The following four figures give
the climatic data for the four zones. Based upon this
data we can characterize the climate as warm-moderate,
and therefore eminently suitable for settlement.
charting the above data on a bioclimatic diagram we
can analyze the different zones. The bioclimatic diagram
represents the physical comfort conditions for man,
which depends on the following factors:
Air Temperature (ordinate): According to
the seasonal disposition of the human body we distinguish
between two comfort ranges, one for the winter and
one for the summer. They are indicated as hatched
areas. b- Relative Humidity (abscissa):
Next to the temperature the relative humidity is decisive
for our comfort. Above 45 % the upper comfort limit
is reduced. c- Wind: Air motion increases the
evaporation of moisture on the skin, providing thereby
a cooling effect. Cross ventilation in buildings therefore
increases the comfort range, particularly when high
humidity is involved. However, air velocity must not
exceed 90m/min. in order to avoid drafts. d- Evaporation: Evaporation of moisture
draws thermal energy from the air and reduces its
temperature. Since the air must be able to absorb
the added moisture, this process is only practicable
at a relative humidity of 50 % or below. e- Solar Radiation: Solar radiation
(kcal/m2) can be used to heat buildings and during
the sunny winter periods in Lebanon it effectively
extends the lower margin of the comfort range (see
right side of diagram). Above 21 C air temperature
no additional solar radiation is desirable. This determines
the extent of the need for shading. (Sky vault radiation
is not considered in the diagram.) f- Surface Radiation: If the radiation
temperatures of space-enclosing surfaces are lower
than the air temperature, they will increase the upper
limit of the comfort range. If they are higher, the
lower limits will be decreased. The temperature difference
between air and surface should not be more than 1
C for colder surfaces, or 3 C for warmer surfaces.
Related values are indicated on the left side of the
superimposing the monthly mean temperature and humidity
values over the comfort diagram we can judge the climatic
condition of each year zone:
Coastal Zone, example Beirut
Daily maximum temperatures surpass the comfort limit
from May onwards, and reach the work limit in August.
Mean daily temperatures surpass the comfort limit
from June till the end of September. Because of high
humidity, cross ventilation is the only natural means
of acclimatization. It is necessary to open buildings
to the summer breeze from the southwest, to provide
sun protection and sufficient thermal insulation.
Heating becomes necessary in the winter during stormy
periods without sunshine.
Medium Altitude on Western Mountain Slope,
In July, daily temperatures surpass the comfort limit
but never reach the work limit. Minimum temperatures
always fall bellow the comfort limit. Insulation is
therefore desired, shading is only necessary in summer.
Heating is needed during the winter and the humidity
requires good ventilation.
C-High Mountains, example Dahr el Baidar
Maximum temperatures reach the comfort zone only from
June till September; mean temperatures always fall
below the comfort limit. Insulation is needed all
the year round; heating is a necessity.
Beqa'a Plain, example Rayak
This region is marked by high daily temperature differences.
Mean daily temperatures reach the comfort zone only
from June till September, mainly because of low night
temperature. During summer the daily maximum can be
overcome by protection from the sun and thermal insulation;
the low night temperatures can be compensated for
by storage of thermal energy in mass construction.
The low humidity does not require much ventilation,
but what is needed is protection against the strong
winds, which are channeled in northern or southerly
directions by the nearby mountains.
the oldest skeleton found in Lebanon is only 25.000
- 30.000 years old, frequent discoveries of flints
indicate that Lebanon was already inhabited in the
Stone Age - about 200.000 years ago. Shortly before
the 3rd millennium the historical period begins with
the invention of writing. The first historical inhabitants
were the Semitic Canaanites, who also settled in neighboring
Syria and Palestine.
1200 B.C. the Achaeans invaded the Aegean islands
and expelled the People of the Sea who fled eastward
and merged with the Canaanites. The resulting people
were called Phoenicians by the Greeks. Using the abundance
of timber in the Lebanon, the Phoenicians became excellent
shipbuilders and navigators. Operating from Byblos,
Sidon, Tyre, Tripoli and Beirut, they extended the
trade between Egypt and Mesopotamia to the whole Mediterranean
and beyond to the Atlantic coast.
founding of Carthage in 814 B.C. added a new Phoenician
domain in the western Mediterranean and thereby strengthened
the resistance of the Phoenicians against the Assyrian-Babylonian-Persian
rule in Asia. Superb traders and seamen, the Phoenicians
were able to retain a good measure of independence,
but their defeat by Alexander the Great, when they
formed the core of the Persian fleet defeat by Alexander
the Great, when they formed the core of the Persian
fleet, weakened their dominant position. During Hellenistic
times trade between East and West flourished. In construction
the coastal towns adopted Greek examples, but in contrast
to Syria, Lebanon did not have room for new cities.
Not until Roman rule did settlements begin to appear
in the mountains, as indicated by numerous remains
of temples and tombs. The early Christians in particular
tended to settle in remote valleys, often carving
their churches from the living rock.
In 551 A.D. devastating tidal waves and earthquakes
destroyed the splendid coastal cities; in Beirut alone
30.000 people perished. Large parts of the towns were
never rebuilt; they are still being rediscovered today.
the 7th century the Arabs put a stop to the Christianization
of the country, which had been nearly completed under
Byzantine rule. While the first Omayads, Abd-al-Malik
and al-Walid, were very tolerant, Abd-al-Aziz (710-20)
introduced discriminating measures against Christians.
The Lebanon became a refuge for the oppressed and
dissatisfied. At the end of the 7th century the Maronites
(after St. Maron, d.410) established themselves as
an independent sect in the upper Kadisha valley, and
from there extended their influence over the north
Lebanese mountains. About four hundred years later,
Muslim dissidents, now known as Druzes (after Nashtakin-al-Darazi,
eleventh century), settled in the southern mountains.
Towards the end of the 11th century the first Crusader
army reached Lebanon. In 1099 Jerusalem was conquered,
and in the first quarter of the 12th century the fortified
coastal cities were taken by the Franks with the help
of Italian ships. Sixty years of coexistence followed
Saladin’s defeat of the Crusaders at the battle
of Hattin. Around 1250 the decline of the Frankish
empire began. First the Mongols devastated all the
cities of the coast; then the Mamlukes expelled the
Crusaders for good in 1289. During Mamluke rule a
balance between Christians and Muslims was reached,
and the Arabization of the country was completed.
1516 onward the Lebanon was under Ottoman rule, and
developed into a stable feudal state. Two dynasties
paved the way towards security, prosperity and religious
peace: the Ma'ani and the Chehabi. The Ma'ani, a Druze
family, under Fakhreddin I (d. 1544) and Fakhreddin
II (1590 - 1635) strengthened agriculture, the silk
industry and trade with Florence, Venice and France.
In 1608 Fakhreddin II concluded a secret pact with
the Grand Duke of Tuscany against the Turks, and consequently
had to seek exile in Italy from 1613 - 1618. After
his return he again furthered economic exchange, built
caravanserails, schools and bridges. This policy was
continued by Emir Beshir I, of the Maronite Chehabi
dynasty. Under Emir Beshir II (1788 - 1840) Lebanon
entered into its most brilliant period.
with the 18th century, France was gaining influence
in the country. Louis XIV and Louis XV took the Maronites
under their special protection, and Christian students
were even offered reduced boat fares to France. When
Ibrahim Pasha led Egypt to war against the Ottoman
Empire, the European powers entered the scene (1840).
The semi-Christian Lebanon was used as a bridgehead,
and Beirut began to surpass the other cities. As the
result of excessive support of the Christian population,
a 20-year long civil war erupted in the mountains
between the Druzes and the Maronites. In 1860 France
and other European powers restored peace, and in 1861
Lebanon received an internationally guaranteed autonomy
within the Ottoman Empire - with the exception of
the coastal cities Sidon, Beirut and Tripoli. A new
constitution eliminated feudal privileges and provided
equal rights for all citizens. Taxes were raised mainly
for local use; governors were appointed by the Sultan
and the western parties. Since this time Lebanon has
been the center of western influence in the Middle
War I toppled the Ottoman rule. An allied occupation
followed and in 1918 Lebanon was put under a French
mandate and thus came under direct French influence.
Strong cultural and economic ties resulted (and concrete
and steel were introduced in construction). In 1944
Lebanon gained full independence. The end of World
War II and the discovery of oil in the Gulf set off
a sudden economic boom, which in essence was based
on the traditional role of the country as a liberal
trading center between East and West. However, the
agricultural population of the mountains was now at
a disadvantage, since its important function as supplier
of foodstuffs was undermined by improved methods of
shipping and trading. On the other hand, the mountains
of the Lebanon were made accessible by a highly developed
road system, and this part of the country continually
gains in importance as a recreational area.
can distinguish two distinctive segments in the Lebanese
population: The commercially-minded coastal dwellers
and the withdrawn inhabitants of the mountains. Originally,
all habitation was concentrated along the coast, the
mountains being used only for lumbering. Timber was
the capital upon which the Phoenician trading activity
was based. Open-minded, multilingual and tolerant,
the Phoenicians acted as go-betweens among many cultures.
This explains their greatest achievement: the formation
of the alphabet which enabled them to record all existing
languages with the same symbols. The Phoenicians were
also great colonizers, but they never forgot their
home cities. All these characteristics are retained
to this day, when more than a million Lebanese abroad
help to support the Lebanese economy with their trading
connections and financial transactions.
Arab times followers of the dominating Sunnite denomination
have settled in the coastal towns and plains while
Shiites live in the lower hills of Southern Lebanon.
Coexisting with both are large communities of Greek
to the coastal inhabitants a tough and frugal mountain
population developed through the centuries, consisting
mainly of Maronites and Druzes, who elected to retain
as much independence as possible by retreating into
less accessible regions. The Maronites form a part
of the Roman Catholic Church, while the esoteric religion
of the Druzes includes Muslim, Christian and Far-Eastern
elements. The Druze religion prescribes monogamy and
women have the same rights as men. Thus, similar living
conditions shaped the attitudes of these people in
identical ways: a strong sense of community coupled
with mutual tolerance and love of independence. Both
were agricultural people who gained their sustenance
by tireless cultivation of the rugged mountain slopes.
the 13th century Frankish rule removed the isolation
of the Christians, and exposed them to western influence.
The harbor cities included autonomous trading quarters
for the Republic of Genoa, Venice and Pisa, and soon
the Venetians gained full control of trade in the
Levant. This trade was interrupted by the Mamlukes,
who blocked the harbors for fear of new invasions
from the sea. In 1300 the port of Beirut was reactivated
to serve as a means of communication with Damascus,
and in the 15th century a Venetian colony was reestablished
on feudalism in Lebanon during the 13th and 14th centuries
Philip Hitti describes the living conditions of the
period: "Lebanese tenants, unlike their counterparts
in Syria and Egypt, were not serfs. They maintained
their freedom of change of location and choice of
the holder they would serve. Even in the Latin system
introduced into the country no such freedom was enjoyed
by the tenants. Lebanese fiefs were usually small,
one to ten villages, parceled out among the members
of the aristocratic families. The tenant's share was
a fixed part of the produce and varied from three-quarters
to two-thirds, except in irrigated lands where it
averaged one half."
discovery of the sea route to India (1488) lessened
the commercial importance of the Levant. The beginning
of Ottoman rule (1516) also reduced its strategic
value. In 1521 the Venetians concluded the first trade
agreement with Sulayman the Magnificent. Trade now
consisted increasingly of local products, particularly
silk, which stimulated the development of the country.
The Sultan contented himself with the collection of
taxes and left a large measure of independence to
the inaccessible mountain areas.
In 1784 the French traveler Volney commented on the
individual freedom and special privileges enjoyed
by the Lebanese living in the mountain regions, stating
that “here, unlike any other Turkish country
everyone enjoys full security for his property and
life.” He pointed out that the Lebanese peasant
was no richer than peasants elsewhere but lived in
tranquility, not fearing that the military officer,
the district governor or the pasha would send his
soldiers to oppress him.
in the occupied coastal zone, however, were less favorable.
In 1775 Beirut counted only 6,000 inhabitants and
in 1848 not more than 15,000. After 1860, however,
the rural exodus, which has been mainly responsible
for Beirut’s spectacular growth began. The massacres
of 1860 in Mount Lebanon, the collapse of the silk
industry under the impact of European industrial fibers
and the decline in local handicrafts due to the European
industrial competition brought about a lasting flow
of emigrants. The emigrants remained attached to their
home communities, kept sending money in support of
their relatives and often returned later to pass their
retirement days in their native country. This is due
to the fact that the family holds the central position
in the extensive framework of communal attachments
and traditional loyalties of Lebanese society.
class differences were unknown and John Gulick writes
in his study of the village of Al-Munsif north of
Byblos: “…the social structure is equalitarian.
Though individuals are rated on a scale of values
from excellent to worthless, such judgments do not
seem to be applied to groups of people.
… Families are to some extent distinguished
from each other in terms of prosperity, but this seems
to apply only to conjugal, or at most, to extended
families. Numerous examples were given of families
now well off which a few years ago had been poor,
and vice versa. Notable prosperity or poverty both
seem to be regarded as transitory situations mostly
due to ‘luck’
is only in recent times that the sudden mobility within
the country, the rapid development of the main cities
and the acceptance of and even addiction to all western
novelties, have brought about profound changes which
jeopardize the survival of traditional values.
Types of Houses
1- The Closed Rectangular House
simplest Type of Flat-roofed house consists of a single
square or rectangular space (bayt) with a low door
(bab), ventilation openings below the roof (taqat)
and one or two small windows (shubbak). If there are
no other openings to the outside we call such a rectangular
house closed. The largest dimension of a space without
interior supports is limited by the common timber
length to about 4.5 m.; a square room will then contain
20 m2. This is sufficient to shelter four persons
(E1). The floor has two levels; the area next to the
entrance and its high stone threshold (bertash) is
even with the ground and is used as soiled service
space (Madura). Shoes and tools are deposited here.
The remaining area is raised by 20 to 75 cm. to form
a clean platform (mastabeh) for living and sleeping.
The exterior walls, which are 50 to 100 cm. thick,
include niches for storage.
E2 shows the enlargement of the space to 26 m2 by
means of one interior support. The logical extension
of this principle produces large spaces with an internal
system of pillars and enclosed by bearing walls. The
pillars subdivide the space into square or rectangular
units which are called bays (‘aynat, pl. of
‘ayn). A fine example of such a house is E3;
it has six pillars and measures 88 m2. One third of
the area serves as a stable (‘istabl) and fodder
storage (matban); two thirds are raised by 75 cm.
and serve as family room (maskan) and storage (hasel).
The grouping of all living and working functions under
one roof and into space without full divisions satisfied
the need for security and allowed the use of animal
warmth during the winter. It also imposed a very close
contact between man and animal.
I have described in detail example E3, but a summary
may be appropriate here (F7). Left of the entrance
we have space for the storage of tools with a place
for firewood above. To the right is the stable with
adjacent fodder storage. The living area is three
steps above (F8). From the stable this space is separated
by silos (kuwwarat), and from the store by a wardrobe
unit (yuk). The area near the fireplace serves as
kitchen or for sitting or sleeping (F9). When we look
at the plans of E1 to E3 we must take into consideration
the importance of the open service space in front
of the house. During the day the actual working and
living space is outside. Usually on the shady north
side a small open construction serves as kitchen (daykuneh).
Most of the cooking is done on a stove (mawkadeh),
the baking of bread in an earthen oven (tannur) (F10).
Outside we find the water reservoir (bir), a well
(nab’) or a least a basin which receives the
water brought from the village fountain. In a remote
corner we may have the manure deposit and an oriental
toilet (mirhad). Manure used to be dried in the shape
of cakes to be used as fuel. The surface directly
in front of the door is usually paved and shaded by
a tree or vines (F11). Often several houses belonging
to a clan are grouped around a common courtyard (hosh)
with a single entrance. In the past whole quarters
of a town were similarly organized and closed during
the night (F12, F13, F14).
E4 reveals the change from mud and rubble to cut stone
construction, which brings with it an increased rigidity
of form. This is expressed in plan by sharp rectangular
corners and strict separation of spaces. The previously
soft transition of the internal levels turns into
an abrupt step. The arcade (habl knater “line
of arches”) introduces a strong division of
the interior space into aisles (swa, pl. of su’).
The organic unity of the interior space into is reduced,
although the arcade introduces a formal enrichment.
E5 turns to vaulted construction. The single-cell
building of 5 by 8 m. is similar to E1. The one-directional
barrel vault results in a tunnel effect which is not
really suitable for living quarters; it is therefore
used predominantly for service spaces. The cross-vault
creates a more satisfactory space. At the same time
the use of massive vaulting invites the addition of
an upper floor.
E6 shows the effect of this development. The adoption
of two-floor construction is very significant since
it allows the vertical separation of living and services
areas. It terminates the cohabitation of man and animal,
thus symbolizing man’s emancipation from unremitting
toil. The connection between floors is always external.
E6 hs a flat-roofed upper floor with an interior arcade
which rests on the two cross-vaults of the ground
floor. Due to the sloping site, the ground floor is
actually a basement in its rear part. The stairway
to the upper floor rests on an arch which defines
a small porch below. On the rear side of the house
we have the typical stairway (daraj) to the roof….
Flat Beam construction, the closed rectangular house
constitutes the simplest way of creating a sheltered
living space. In areas where timber is totally lacking,
roofs are made of stone slabs (Hauran) or are constructed
in the shape of domes, as in northern Syria (F19).
Neither type of construction, however, is found in
building technique in Lebanon combined bearing wall
and skeleton construction. Bearing walls are used
for the rigid enclosing elements, skeleton construction
for the roof. The foundation (byiftahu l-‘asas)
is carried down to bedrock where possible, or at least
a meter below ground, a consisting of compacted loam
and stones. The simplest type of exterior bearing
walls (hitan, sing. Hayt) are made of stones collected
from the ground and piled up without mortar as dry
masonry (kallin). The thickness of such a wall is
about one meter throughout and it consists of three
parts: the exterior leaf (hayt l-beranneh), the interior
leaf (hayt j-juwwani) and the core (rakkeh) in between
which is filled with rubble (dabsh) (F20). The outer
face is usually built in horizontal ranges (madamik),
the stones being roughly cut to fit on the outside
while they are secured in place by wedge-like stone
chips at the inner joints. The interior face is built
less carefully since it will be covered by plaster,
improved version consists of ranged masonry laid in
mortal of loam, if possible enriched with lime. This
construction is called bonded (msaffat). The wall
thickness is reduced to about half a meter, with bonding
stones frequently trying the outer and inner faces
of the wall (F21).
interior plaster consists of a layer of loamy earth
(tin) mixed with chaff (qasrine). There may be an
additional finish coat of lime plaster (huwwara).
Both are 3-4 cms. thick. Rounding out the corners,
the plaster merges with the floor of compacted earth
and usually continues to the outside around windows
and doors (F22, F23). Buildings of mud brick exist
only in the Beqa’a plain, but they cannot be
distinguished from plastered stone buildings. The
mud bricks (libn) are prepared in wooden forms from
a mixture of loamy earth, chaff and water. The dimensions
vary widely, and reach up to 30 x 50 x 15 cm. The
bricks are laid in bonds of headers and stretchers,
and produce walls of about 80 cm. thickness.
roof (sath), if not vaulted, always consists of a
flat timber structure with a topping of earth, 30
to 50 cm. thick (F20). The main structural element
is a layer of logs (wasleh), 10-20 cm. in diameter,
embedded in the exterior walls at 40-60 cm. centers.
Long logs are usually left projecting on the outside
(F24). The preferred wood for these joints is mulberry
(tut) or a kind of poplar (zenzlakht)… …Etc...
The Gallery House
N. 2385 of 17/1/1924 as amended by law N. 76 of 3/4/1999
( articles 2, 5, 15, 49 and 85 ) lays down as follows:
The author of a literary or artistic work, by the
very fact of authorship, has absolute right of ownership
over the work, without obligation of recourse to formal
procedures . The author will himself enjoy the benefit
of exploitation of his work, and he possesses exclusive
rights of publication and of the reproduction under
any form whatsoever. Whether the work in question
comes under the public domain or not those persons
will be liable to imprisonment for a period of one
to three years and to fine of between five and fifty
million Lebanese pounds, or to either one of these
penalties, who 1-will have appended or caused to be
appended a usurped name on a literary or artistic
work; 2-will have fraudulently imitated the signature
or trademark adopted by an author, with a view to
deceiving the buyer; 3-will have counterfeited a literary
or artistic work; 4-or will have knowingly sold, received,
or put on sale or into circulation a work which is
counterfeit or signed with a forged signature. The
punishment will be increased in the event of repetition.