June 25, 2008

Tree House in Beirut

When I walked past this construction site today, the word ‘tree house’ came to mind. Wouldn’t you want to have a tree house like this? The roots have grown all around this little box, and it is now part of the trunk.

They are phenomenal trees, these trees. They grow all over Beirut. They are called Ficus benjamina, also known as the Weeping Fig or Benjamin's Fig, a species native to south and Southeast Asia. In Europe we have these things as indoor plants.
Phenomenal in the sense that they seem to thrive in a hostile environment. Little rainfall for most of the year, most of them totally encased in concrete, yet still they manage to reach heights of 30 meters.
The United States Forest Service states that the use of this tree in tree form is much too large for residential planting, "Roots grow rapidly invading gardens, growing under and lifting sidewalks, patios, and driveways." They conclude this species should only be used as a hedge or clipped screen.
Well, leave it to the Lebanese. We do not do well within confined environments, rules and regulations. No way clipping us in, and that goes for our trees as well.
I hope they’re going to keep these three. But I doubt it.

Two of these trees inspired a landscape architect, Vladimir Djurovic, to create a small escape dedicated to the Beirut and its people. It is called the Samir Kassir Square, and was recently awarded one of nine 2007 Aga Khan Awards for Architecture. Read more on it here.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

S,

These are cool trees. Great for kids. As kids we used to climb them. They also have these ropes like stems going downward from the big branches. We used to swing on them like Tarzan did in the jungle. Quite fun, but not great on the palms of your hands after an hour.

There are quite a few of them in Ras Beyrouth. Sometimes they were in the back yards and we had to sneak & climb the garden walls to get to them and play. Sometimes we got chased out, but most of the times the owners didn't care, since we were kids & they could tell that we were only playing Tarzans looking for Jane.

BTW, thanks for identifying the ship wreck for me the "Macedonia". I looked it up on Google, and I was a bit off on the year. Just goes to show you that we didn't keep track of time back then, as we were having so much fun growing up in the most beautifull place. But I could never forget that storm.

Take care S.

Samir Kassir Square said...

Beautiful Square!
See also on You Tube in the link above.
BTW, for your annual pilgrimage, embrace for an eventual night frost - as occurred here two weeks ago. I guess it is meant to keep the mood of the Dutch in a 'cool' mode, in line with the depressions that pass by...
No risk of boiling blood and volatile tempers.... I'll stop here before getting 'too emotional' :)
Francine

Anonymous said...

where s that tree located?