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The Lost City… A Model of the Moments of Beirut Explosion

The Lost City… A Model of the Moments of Beirut Explosion

Friday, 15 January, 2021 - 14:00

Few Lebanese have a clear idea of what constitutes a diorama. There are actually only a few practitioners of this art, which is usually used to document historical or military scenes. Dioramic pieces, which are popular abroad, are normally utilized in theater and three-dimensional works. Such works are also often featured in museums, with models that depict the details of a piece, castle, or monument.


In Lebanon, two artistic pioneers, Wissam Zaghloul and Imad Abo Antoun, decided to pay tribute to Beirut by documenting the moment in which the port exploded on the fourth of August. As for Vincent Awad, his mission was to photograph the model in a short film, following the course of the events the model depicts moment by moment.


In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Awad explains: "This model's value is in its depiction of the moment of the explosion in all its details, taking the port's obliteration as its main focus."


He adds: "To prevent this disaster from being forgotten and to keep it engraved in our memory no matter how much time passes, we decided to erect this monument. We expect to place it facing Saint George Hospital in Ashrafieh or one at a Civil Defense center. Both are symbolic sites in the context of the Beirut bombing, the first because it was severely damaged and the second because of the fallen martyrs from its ranks."


The model recreates the event with intricate detail, including the damage to the massive concrete walls of silos that absorbed much of the explosion's force. The color of the dirt covering the site of the disaster, the murkiness of the sea's water, and other subtle details of this surreal moment are conveyed with precision by Wissam Zaghloul and Imad Abu Antoun.


Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Zaghloul said he arrived at the site a few minutes after the explosion. He went to the port because he worked as a paramedic, and he saw the destruction it left behind.


He continued: "The difficulty in working on the model was more psychological than practical. Depicting the catastrophic scene in all its details and reliving that moment gives you great pain. It is true that diorama, The Lost City, is a work of art par excellence, but it is also an indirect form of psychological treatment that my colleague Imad Abu Antoun and I received."


Zaghloul adds that the site is shrunk 200 fold in "The Lost City." It is about 80 cm high, 1.5 meters wide, and 80 cm deep. He also explains that the materials were chosen to maximize accuracy. They include plastic pipes, gypsum, foam, iron wires, and other materials, which he says had to be imported, like "resin" and "resin acrylic."


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