In 1963 Oscar Niemeyer was commissioned to design an international fairground to serve as a showcase for Lebanon and signal the modern vision for the country’s development. The large oval-shaped International Fairground at Tripoli features Niemeyer’s signature minimalist, geometric forms within a vast, open-air pavilion. The fairground is based on modern urban planning ideals and an aesthetic similar to that of Brasilia, Niemeyer’s project for the capital of Brazil. Simple concrete forms such as a grand arch, a domed-theatre, and an elongated low-rise pavilion shape the landscape. The fairground was abandoned mid-construction at the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war in 1975, and today sits in ruin, a symbol of the interrupted plans. The fairground, previously used by the military, suffers from years of neglect and deferred maintenance. Abandoned long ago, the site now faces development pressures and demolition of many of its existing structures, as plans form to convert the site into a theme park and tourist destination. Watch-listing in 2006 drew international attention to the site, but advocacy is still needed to prevent the destruction or further deterioration of the site.
The International Fairground at Tripoli documents a period of rapid economic growth in Lebanon and the government’s desire to establish itself as a progressive country welcoming of international visitors and collaboration. The fairground is considered the face of Lebanese modernism and is a reminder of the prosperous years before its civil war. Designed by Oscar Niemeyer as his first project outside South America after the creation of Brasilia, the International Fairground at Tripoli is a testament to the reach of modernism around the globe.
Since the Watch
The fairground remains empty and unused, with little if any progress made towards its long-term preservation.
Last update: December 2010