Photographing The Rose House in Beirut
Beirut, Lebanon, is a one-of-a-kind destination for people who are fascinated by urban decay and abandoned buildings. The city has been at the forefront of culture in its golden age, combining influences from the Middle East and the nearby Mediterranean countries in a unique way. Because of this unique blend of styles, peoples, and the country’s unique position, Lebanon became a very important hub, which attracted many people worldwide. As the country seemed on a fast track to prosperity, political unrest led to several issues, including many years of civil war, which caused significant damage to buildings and lots of economic loss, resulting in many abandoned homes and notable places. Most recently, the tragic chemical leak explosion of 2020, originating from the port of Beirut, destroyed a significant section of the city and shocked the entire world.
Currently not open to the general public, The Rose House is one of the many historically relevant buildings that sit with an uncertain future due to all the struggles that the local area had to face throughout the years. Also known as “The Pink House Of Beirut,” this unique property is particularly striking due to its distinctive light pink coloration, giving it a soft pastel look that still stands out in spite of the facade being faded and decayed. As much as the color is quickly disappearing due to weathering and lack of maintenance, the front of the house is still majestic, with its beautiful arches and structure. The architectural style of The Rose House feels like a perfect blend of lavish European luxury and wonderful Middle-Eastern design ideas, giving the place a truly distinctive look.
Mohammad Ardati, who built the house in 1882, designed it so that the two upper floors would complement his hunting lodge, which was a pre-existing structure with an even deeper industry. The surrounding green areas and the stunning coastal landscape visible from the home are almost poetic, providing a perfect complement with the style of the exterior of the building, which remained relatively unscathed compared to other historical homes in Beirut.
Eventually, the Ardati family, along with the Daouks, inhabited the premises for several decades at the beginning of the 20th century. This is often considered a prime period for The Rose House. Due to the high status of its tenants, the home was visited by several influential figures from all over the world, including Charles De Gaulle, the former president of France who fought against the Nazis in WWII. Throughout the 50s and 60s, the home was a hip and sought-after hotspot for artists and international socialites, but things took a sharp turn when the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war in 1975 changed the social and political climate to a more unstable situation. The house survived the civil war, and the last remaining heirs of the Ardati family sold the house, with the last family member eventually leaving it for good in 2014. Many artists stayed at The Rose House throughout the years, including Tom Young and John Ferrin, who created some of their works there.
Today, The Rose House sits unattended, but new ownership has been planning renovations. The long-term goal is to eventually turn The Rose House into a museum and exhibition space, which would host a variety of events of cultural and public interest. There is hope that the famed Pink House of Beirut is going to return to its former glory and become a relevant and iconic local landmark once again.
My visit to The Rose House in Beirut was part of a project I was photographing for my partner The Heritage Management Organization, in collaboration with a local NGO called Silat for culture.
More photos of The Rose House in Beirut can be found below:
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