The idea of dedicating a museum to Fairouz, the singer and leading figure of musical theatre in Lebanon, in her childhood home in Beirut has been circulating in the local media in recent years. The persistent media campaign came to fruition with the declaration that the endangered nineteenth-century mansion in Zokak el-Blat was a building of public interest. Taking an anthropological approach, this paper will focus upon Fairouz’s House as a contested urban space. It will highlight multiple and diverse readings and interpretations of Beirut’s architectural heritage in this contentious context. After illustrating the dialectical conception of the ‘space of sound’ in relation to physical references of what was originally a private space, our presentation will focus on two issues: the legacy and memory and the connection between the museum’s function as a shrine dedicated to an artist who progressively became a public figure closely related to the history of modern Lebanon; and the transformation of a modest nineteenth-century private house on the periphery into a key cultural and public centre. As the museum will witness the transition of Fairouz’s childhood house into a public space, the paper will also follow the biographical trajectory of a personality switching from private to public, from a young timid girl to both an established artistic landmark and national icon.
Mazen Haidar is a conservation architect, currently involved in several project in Lebanon. He is the assistant director of the Architecture School at the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts (ALBA).
Akram Rayess is an ethnomusicologist, a management consultant and a trainer. He is a founding member of the Foundation for Arab Music Archiving and Research (AMAR) and Core Committee member of the Zaki Nassif Music Program at AUB.