The Chalet

Building the nation

Most probably built in the early 70s, this ‘chalet’ in Faraya, a village 42 km away from Beirut known for its ski resort was designed by Maurice Hindié. The Lebanese architect is known for also having designed the (in)famous Holiday Inn. Hindié had ambitious dreams for his architecture. For him, just like most of his modernist contemporaries, making buildings went hand-in-hand with creating proper living environments, fostering functioning societies, and ultimately, building the nation.

Hindié’s chalet was the first ‘pre-fab’ house built in Lebanon. His original plan was to build these chalets in a series that would follow the descending slope of the mountain. But the plan was interrupted by the eruption of the Civil War. Deeply disheartened he fled to Paris, never to return. People who have tried to contact him say that he still refuses to talk about his life and work in Lebanon.

# (I’d) almost-forgotten (that) concrete-dreams

once upon a time,
i would dream.

once upon a time,
before these clouds marched in,
and kidnapped the skies in which
my dreams were flying free.

i would dream
of a Lebanon that lived,
and breathed,
and led the dance of progress.

i would dream of a country,
a family
that would build its dreams,
with roots laid down deep into its soil

and so I built you,
our secret family-hide-away,
designed to precisely embrace
our every step, our every laugh, our every hope.

and so I built you,
with the dream of building
so many more
of you.

but then the clouds marched in,
to the drums of war;
they marched in and hijacked the skies
where my dreams had once flown free

the clouds marched in,
the war had its way,
and I
couldn’t stay.

and so I left,
never to return.

I left you there –
you, the concrete expression
of my hopes and dreams –
i left you there behind.

and so,
while I crumble here in my bed
in some distant land that is not my own,
you still stand strong.

untouched by war,
but with the wear and tear of time
written on your walls

along with the names
of all the children
who played hide-and-seek in your folds

you still stand there –
perhaps lost in time and space,
unknown to most.

but you remain,
as a concrete testament
to the dreams that can make a man,

you remain,
as evidence
to the concrete dreams that can build a nation.

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6 thoughts on “The Chalet

  1. A powerful and poignant reflection on much of Lebanon’s history and the ongoing lived experiences of many in far flung places. Nice one Richard!

  2. Isn’t it a shame that both this and the Holiday Inn hotel both were interrupted by the civil war? Imagine what else he could have envisioned for Lebanon. Great read Richard, as always.

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