Beirut Blast: A Map of the Damage to Educational and Cultural Institutions

/ 01 Oct 2020

Beirut Blast: A Map of the Damage to Educational and Cultural Institutions

The massive explosion in the port of Beirut on August 4 caused colossal damage throughout the Lebanese capital, especially in the nearby neighborhoods of Gemmayze, Mar Mikhaël and Achrafieh. More than 200 people were killed, thousands were injured, and many more lost their homes. 

Apart from the human toll, thousands of buildings were damaged or destroyed, including facilities used by educational, arts and cultural organizations. Nearly two months after the blast, though, many of the damaged museums, galleries and universities report progress on making repairs and restoring some operations.

For additional coverage by Al-Fanar Media, see the following related articles:

The interactive map below shows the location of some of the educational and cultural organizations whose facilities were damaged in the blast, followed by a brief description of the damage at each.

Click on the button at the top left-hand corner of the map to see the map legend. 

Click on the icons of institutions on the map to show photos and descriptions of the damage. 

At the bottom of most descriptions are links to donation pages institutions have set up to collect funds to repair damage from the explosion.

Educational Institutions

ESA Business School

ESA Business School is a leading business school located in the Clemenceau district of Beirut. The campus was closed throughout the month of August, “so, thankfully, everyone was safe from the blast, including the security officers that were there,” said Cheryl Matar, head of marketing and communication. The campus itself suffered damage to most of six buildings. Damages include shattered windows, doors and ceilings, damage to concrete and walls, and minor damages to equipment. 

ESA has started repairs, prioritizing the main building which accommodates classrooms, offices, a cafeteria, and a workshop space. Some floors are fully secured to ensure the continuation of the courses, but other repairs are  moving slowly as the school awaits shipments of glass and other building materials. 

The coronavirus pandemic helped the education sector prepare for such an emergency, as some of the courses had already shifted online, Matar said.

A support fund for the ESA Business School is available at this link: https://www.esa.edu.lb/esa/support-fund

Haigazian University

Haigazian University, founded in 1955 by Armenian missionaries, is a rich historical landmark with two of its buildings listed by the Lebanese Ministry of Culture as heritage buildings. 

There were a few people at the university by the time of the blast, including the president and some students, but none of them were hurt. There was notable damage to seven buildings, however, including to interior walls, ceilings, doors, window frames and panes, lab materials and desks. Losses are estimated at $150,000. 

The university has used its own funds and donations to start repairs and is about halfway through securing all buildings. Apart from the physical damage, Haigazian University is also dealing with logistical issues like ensuring that scholarship funds make their way to students in need, enhancing its IT infrastructure so that students can engage in remote learning, and making certain that enrolled students can successfully participate in the fall semester.  

Haigazian University is accepting donations on the following link: 

https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/WebLink.aspx?name=E334737&id=17

Lebanese American University  

The Lebanese American University’s Beirut campus suffered damages across the campus, destroying glass facades and a parking garage entrance. No students or staff members were physically affected by the blast, but assessment of the “psychological damage that struck students and faculty alike will remain an ongoing process,” said Raed Mohsen, the campus’s dean of students.

The LAU Medical Center-Rizk Hospital, which is closer to the blast site, sustained major damages, said Mohsen. Donations to the medical center are being accepted at this link.

Assessment of the “psychological damage that struck students and faculty alike will remain an ongoing process.”

Raed Mohsen   Dean of students at Lebanese American University

Lebanese University 

Faculty of Economics and Business Administration

The Beirut campus of the Lebanese University, the country’s only public university, suffered “very severe” damage to around 25 buildings, said Pierre Matar, a civil engineer and faculty member. One of the university’s colleges, the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, is located within the Achrafieh, Karm El Zaytoun area, which was heavily affected by the blast. The college suffered heavy damage to its glass front, its windows, plaster ceilings, partition walls, tables, chairs and computers. The damage has been estimated at over 500 million Lebanese pounds (nearly $330,000).

There were reports of injured people, but none of the injuries were severe. 

The university has started repairs using money from a pre-existing fund for general repairs, but it won’t be adequate to ensure the restoration of buildings that experienced minor damages, let alone the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration. A team of engineers and workers from within and outside the university have started repairs, but still have a long way to go. 

Hoda Moukannas, a faculty director in the department of translation, languages and communication, said that while the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on education in the country were immediate, the effects of the explosion were not and could have a gradually escalating effect on the mental health of teachers and students alike. 

Sagesse University Faculty of Hospitality Management

The Faculty of Hospitality Management (SFHM) at Sagesse University is located in the heart of Achrafieh, Beirut, on Sagesse Street. Security guards at the institution were seriously injured in the blast, said Tanios Kassis, dean of the faculty, Dr. Tanios Kassis. The building itself was heavily damaged, with the entire glass façade shattered. Classrooms and offices also suffered damage to ceilings, doors, tables, chairs, LCD screens, projectors, computers and laptops. The loss in infrastructure and equipment is valued at over $1.5 million. 

“It will be hard for the students to resume learning at the standards they were once used to,” Kassis said, explaining that the institution uses intricate tool-based learning methodology. Some of the classroom damage has been repaired so students can resume their courses, but the institution still has a long way to go to repair all the damages it suffered. 

Saint George University of Beirut

Saint George University of Beirut recently relocated to the vicinity of Saint George Hospital University Medical Center. The building was unoccupied at the time of the explosion and no injuries were reported, but the building sustained material damages, including collapsed ceilings and broken doors, windows, computer screens, and printers. So far, the ceilings have been repaired and damage assessments continue. 

The university was also in the process of relocating into another building which formerly housed a campus of the University of Balamand, also in the area. This facility, still unopen, suffered extensive damage that includes core infrastructural elements, piping, doors, partitions, and ceilings. The relocation process will be delayed in light of the time needed to secure the funds and material for reconstruction. 

Donations to Saint George Hospital University Medical Center are being accepted at this link: 

https://www.stgeorgehospital.org/stgeorge-donation

Saint-Joseph University of Beirut

Saint-Joseph University of Beirut and the Lebanese University appear to be the two universities in the city most damaged by the massive explosion on August 4. 

Saint-Joseph University has spent days trying to reach all its students and staff members to determine the extent of deaths and injuries. It has confirmed 10 deaths among its students, faculty and staff members, and their immediate families. Over 300 people were injured, 29 of them seriously. 

Saint-Joseph University has five campuses in Beirut. The most seriously damaged was the Social Sciences campus, also known as the historic “Jesuit” campus, located on Huvelin Street. Three other campuses, on Damascus Street, were also damaged: the Humanities, Medical Sciences, and Innovation and Sports campuses.

Preliminary estimates of damage to buildings (not counting the university hospital) stood at $4 million. Four of the university’s libraries were damaged, including its famous Orienetal Library, with 3,500 manuscripts from the 9th to the 19th centuries. Two museums—the Museum of Lebanese Prehistory and the Museum of Minerals—were also damaged, as was a photo archive that is one of the leading collections in the region.  

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The university hospital, Hotel-Dieu de France, is damaged but open. It is close to the blast zone, and it treated 750 injured people right after the explosion.

The university and the hospital are accepting emergency relief donations here 

St. Joseph’s, like most other Beirut universities, pushed back the starting date for the fall semester from September 1 to September 11. The university is planning to follow a hybrid teaching model; students will come to classes on a rotating basis, while following distance classes other times.   

Eddé said: “We are all a bit traumatized.” “We are tired. This year was terrible for Lebanon,” with the blast coming on top of the economic and governing crisis and then the COVID crisis. Yet she and her colleagues have been heartened to see so many people come from in and outside the city to help clear the damage.  

“International and local solidarity gives us a message of hope.”

Cultural Institutions

AFAC (Arab Fund for Arts and Culture)

AFAC (Arab Fund for Arts and Culture) is an independent initiative that offers financial and professional support to artists and cultural institutions from the Arab region. One recent program extended support to independent artists affected by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Its space in Beirut was heavily damaged by the August 4 explosion, said office manager Julie Terzian. Shattered glass, damages to ceilings and doors and technological equipment. Two people were within the space when the blast happened, but they were able to run for safety and escaped with relatively minor injuries, like cuts that required stitches. 

“The cultural sector has been facing an unprecedented crisis throughout the past couple of years, and the challenges it has had to respond to are not strictly to do with the blast itself, but rather with the ongoing economic and financial crises the country as whole is traversing.”

Edwin Nasr   Assistant to the director at Ashkal Alwan, the Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts

The organization has resumed normal operations after completing structural repairs in early September. 

AWAC has provided emergency support for arts and culture practitioners who were directly affected by the port explosion through a “Lebanon Solidarity Fund” co-managed with Culture Resource (Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafy). (Culture Resource reported only minimal damage to its own office in Beirut.) The campaign to raise funds is continuing. 

AWAC  has provided emergency support for arts and culture practitioners who were directly affected by the port explosion through a “Lebanon Solidarity Fund” co-managed with Culture Resource (Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafy), and is continuing to fund artistic research and cultural works related to cinema and music. Donations are being accepted at the following link: https://www.arabculturefund.org/News/102

Ashkal Alwan

Ashkal Alwan, the Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts, is a nonprofit organization that aims to create networks of exchange between artistic and cultural practitioners and institutions, support emerging and established artists, and help enrich critical discourse in the Arabic language, among other activities.

Damages to its space in Beirut included breakage of external and internal glass façades, interior metal and glass partitions, doors, ceilings, lighting, piping and computers, said Edwin Nasr, assistant to the director. Ashkal Alwan’s plan for 2020–21 consisted of gradually redesigning their current 2,000-square meter venue to house a larger number of artists’ studios so it could host a total of 22 independent studios and around 55 artists. This project was started in January 2020 as more and more practitioners and collectives were losing their income due to Lebanon’s financial and economic crises. Now the organization is tending to urgent repairs so it can welcome additional artists and cultural workers whose workspaces and studios were destroyed as a result of the explosions.

The association is working alongside funding initiatives and institutions to determine the best way to distribute emergency aid as well as long-term financial support to artists and cultural workers. “The cultural sector has been facing an unprecedented crisis throughout the past couple of years,” Nasr said, “and the challenges it has had to respond to are not strictly to do with the blast itself, but rather with the ongoing economic and financial crises the country as whole is traversing.”

Creative Space Beirut

Creative Space Beirut is a free school for fashion design offering quality design education to talented youth who lack the resources to pursue an education. Its building suffered major damages in the explosion, namely broken window glass and window frames, heavy damage to walls and ceilings, and some minor damage to office gear.

“We were inside the premises in the midst of a photo-shoot when the explosion happened,” said co-founder and board member Sarah Hermez, “but, luckily, no one was hurt.” 

While the psychological weight of the tragedy is still very present, Hermez said she was thankful that no major damage was done to valuables such as textiles, sewing machines and fabrics. 

Creative Space Beirut’s key assets are presently stored in a warehouse as the institution looks for new spaces in and around of Beirut. “We are left with a day-to-day planning process as we put things together again,” Hermez said. “However, once the space is secured, we can then estimate the costs of reopening.” 

Creative Space Beirut is accepting donations through its website: https://creativespacebeirut.com

Instituto Cervantes de Beirut

Instituto Cervantes de Beirut is an international educational institution supported by Spain for learning Spanish and promoting Hispanic culture. Its facility in Beirut, with a glass exterior, was seriously damaged in the port blast. Two of the three façades were damaged, and replacing them will be expensive because they were made of a high-security glass with anti-explosive and anti-seismic protection.

An exhibition hall and an assembly hall were also affected. The explosion destabilized interior partitions, and seven of the center’s 11 classrooms have been taken out of service. The institute also lost computer equipment and some furniture.

Two security officers are still recovering after having suffered fractures and cuts that

required surgery. The coronavirus restrictions then in place were key to avoiding further casualties, said the institute’s director, Yolanda Soler Onís. “We were teaching the classes over the Internet. The explosion occurred minutes before the start of the afternoon sessions,” she said. “At that time, there were only five workers left in the space.” 

The institute has resumed activities in the four available classrooms. More information about thee institute’s activities is available here: https://beirut.cervantes.es/fr/default.shtm

Litani Cultural Center, Beirut

Litani Cultural Center is a resource center that focuses on encouraging women’s social participation in and around greater Beirut. The center’s office is located on two floors, both of which were ravaged by the explosion. In addition to the destruction of the building’s façade, the space also suffered fallen ceilings, dislocated doors, broken couches and chairs, and the loss of technological equipment, said Maria Lena Gonzalez, who’s in charge of the project’s conceptualization and key member in the center since moving here 23 years ago. 

Lena Gonzalez was at the center right before the blast happened. “I was trying to calm a lady who was standing outside, telling her not to worry about the planes,” she recalled. The blast was preceded by a smaller explosion that sounded like it may have come from a plane. “I immediately knew another one is coming,” Lena Gonzalez said, “so I accompanied the lady to the corridor within the premises, and shortly after, the blast happened. We thought war had broken out.” 

Lena Gonzalez tried to pull herself together as she searched for colleagues to make sure everyone was safe. She was pleased to know everyone was doing okay, and only grasped the loss of safety and of memories. 

Thanks to many donations, Litani Cultural Center is slowly being rebuilt. Windows and doors are still being installed, while the workers are in the process of returning to a normal working pace. However, the center is still trying to extend its help to the communities that have also experienced loss. Donations are being accepted through this link: https://promocionsocial.org/en/donacion-litani/

Zoukak Theatre Company & Cultural Association

Zoukak is a non-hierarchical cultural “laboratory” that uses theater as a space for reflection and solidarity against marginalizing systems. It focuses on cultural production and theatrical interventions in emergency situations such as working with incarcerated youths, children with multiple disabilities, women subjected to domestic violence, migrant domestic workers and other marginalized segments of society. 

None of Zoukak’s team members were hurt in the explosion, but their studio, located about two kilometers away from the blast site, was heavily damaged. Walls and windows were destroyed, said Maya Zbib, a theater director and founding member of the theater company. Damage included cracks in the ceiling, floor and door frames, and equipment. Zoukak also lost 80 percent of its light equipment stored in the space, as an indirect consequence of the blast. 

Zoukak has been able to clean the space and install some windows and doors, but the space still needs repairs to gaps in walls, doors and windows. In additions, it is struggling with some uncertainty over how to sustain its 10-person staff and its ability to operate the venue or simply to keep it. Donations are being accepted at the following link: https://zoukak.org/support-us

“I hope that one day the building becomes independent and hosts its own staff that could potentially work full-time within the space to ensure its constant performance.”

Youmna Nayel   caretaker and chief of the property department of the municipality of Beirut

Museums and Galleries

AUB Archaeological Museum

The AUB Archaeological Museum, founded in 1868, is the third oldest museum in the Near East with collections from seven countries. The museum, which was closed at the time of the explosion, sustained heavy architectural damages, including five massive doors that were broken and 17 windows that shattered. One large case containing 74 pieces of the “Glass through the Ages” collection was smashed, which represents a priceless loss. 

A team was created to conduct a preliminary assessment and a list of required materials, and the Institut National du Patrimoine in Paris was contacted. Subsequently, a special recovery mission for the AUB Museum, financed by ALIPH, the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas, was set up. 

Claire Cuyaubere, a glass expert, started the recovery and conservation phase with the support of the museum team as well as student volunteers from AUB, the University of Balamand, and the Lebanese University.  The museum broadcast the repair process on its Facebook page as a gesture of transparency. 

Donations to the museum’s recovery fund are being accepted at the following link:
https://www.aub.edu.lb/advancement/Development/Pages/Museum-Recovery-Fund.aspx

The project is one of several the university is raising funds for through its AUB4Beirut Disaster Response campaign. 

Beit Beirut – Museum and Urban Cultural Center

Beit Beirut is a museum and a cultural center in the Achrafieh area, and also a rare structure in Beirut’s architectural history. Once an elegant mansion, the building was used as a snipers’ lair during the Lebanese Civil War and suffered heavy damage. It was reopened in 2017 as Beit Beirut (the House of Beirut), with renovations that combine new and historic elements and preserve the ravages of the war in many rooms and the bullet-riddled façade.

In the August 4 port explosion, the building suffered great damage to its façade some of its floors, while all of the other floors experienced minor damages, including to walls and equipment, said Youmna Nayel, the building’s caretaker and chief of the property department of the municipality of Beirut. She added, however, that the building is not on the verge of collapsing. 

The building is currently closed until further notice. It has been cleared of rubble from the blast but further repairs may take a while because they need to go through a potentially lengthy official approval process. “The center never really functioned on a daily basis, it always held temporary gatherings,” Nayel said. “However, I hope that one day the building becomes independent and hosts its own staff that could potentially work full-time within the space to ensure its constant performance.” 

There is no donations page dedicated to the rebuilding of Beit Beirut, but benefactors could reach out to the municipality of Beirut and designate their donations to the cultural center. 

Sursock Museum

The Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock Museum, a museum of modern and contemporary art located less than one kilometer from the blast site, was heavily damaged.

The museum was closed when the blast happened, but several people were injured. They included a maintenance worker, a bride and groom who were in the museum for photoshoot, and a few others who were at a restaurant within the museum’s premises, said Muriel Kahwaji, the museum’s head of communications. 

Structurally, the museum suffered damage throughout its space, including four underground floors. The damage included broken doors, a shattered façade, and broken ceilings. Fifty artworks were also damaged, including two that were destroyed beyond the point of repair. The cost of building repairs has been estimated at not less than $3 million. 

ICOM Lebanon, a branch of the International Council of Museums, and ALIPH, the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas, organized a mission within days after the explosion to evaluate damage and to kickstart rehabilitation projects for the Sursock and other museums in Beirut. The museum is still not fully secured as the rehabilitation project is still in its early phases. Some parts of the museum can be fixed, but others need to be rebuilt. 

Donations are being sought here: https://sursock.museum/content/help-us-rebuild-sursock-museum

Firas Hamiye also contributed to this article.




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