Lebanon in the 1960s aspired to become a beacon of modernity in the Arab world, a place whose tourism, leisure and banking sectors were the pride and joy of Lebanese society. Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012) had a vision for Tripoli, Lebanon's second city in terms of size but its first for commercial activity, a few dozen kilometers from the Syrian border: a group of extraordinary buildings forming a World Expo site for the city. The colossal undertaking came in late. In fact, twelve years after work started, it still wasn't completely finished when the civil war broke out. Mostly abandoned today, the spectacular site is considered by the international community to be one of the most at risk of collapse.
In 2018, art historian and curator Karina El Helou, founder of Studiocur/art, held at this site an extraordinary exhibition, Cycles of Collapsing Progress, inviting some of the most influential artists on the Lebanese scene, such as Zad Moultaka, Joanna Hadjthomas, and Kalil Joreige, to take part. In this talk she presents the fascinating artistic, social, and political context surrounding the inception of this unsung marvel of 20th century architecture.