Sunlight and Fresh Air: Picturing Life in the Central-Hall Houses of Beirut, 1890-1920
Honorable Mention winner of the Friends of Fondren Library Graduate Research Awards, 2012.
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.