Sunlight and Fresh Air: Picturing Life in the Central-Hall Houses of Beirut, 1890-1920
In the last thirty years of Ottoman rule in Beirut, Lebanon, a form of domestic architecture developed that became the ultimate status symbol for the burgeoning bourgeoisie of the city. This new type of dwelling came to be known as the central-hall house. Based on a historiography of this housing type, I will use recently published photographs from this same time period of 1890 to 1920 to reconsider three major design elements of the central-hall house: the triple arched window, plan of the central hall, and red tile roof in light of how these architectural features can be seen to be a part of the the inhabitants' lives. Based on photographic evidence, I will show that upper-class women were a touch point for changes and conversations taking place in the last thirty years of Ottoman rule in Beirut. New urban homes, educational opportunities, access to infrastructure, and conspicuous consumerism were a part of the lived reality of these women's day-to-day existence. By taking these socio-cultural factors into account, iconic features of the central-hall house offer a view of space, place, and gender in the early stages of modernization in city of Beirut, the area of Lebanon, and the greater Syrian geographic area.
Honorable Mention winner of the Friends of Fondren Library Graduate Research Awards, 2012.