November 30, 2014

The Pink House

From the balcony of the Pink House
Everybody  in town is talking about the Rose House after this post“The Rose House is opening up its doors? Have you seen it?” is the news. 

I have wondered for 20-something years about that house. I knew who lived there, but had never been inside. And who hasn't walked past that house, secretly hoping they'd have a house like that, in a neighborhood like that, with a view like that?

Now it's open to the public, because the house has recently been vacated, and a British painter, Tom Young, has taken the opportunity to paint from the house, and display his work from the Rose House, as the exhibition is called.


Actually, everybody I know always called it the ‘Pink House’. Others called it the Ardati House (after its original owner, Najib Ardati).  What’s in a name? Nothing really, but ‘rose’ is too soft. The house makes more of a statement than ‘rose’, and so for me, it will remain the ‘Pink House’.
The pink house is a prominent feature on Beirut’s Corniche. It’s an old part of Beirut, next to the house is the old Beirut lighthouse, still functioning, but no longer working since high-rise around it made it impossible, and a new lighthouse had to be build closer to shore. It’s the way Beirut must have once looked like, with villas surrounded by gardens and palm trees.
Tourists automatically take pictures of the house as they walk by, without really knowing anything about it; it's that eye-catching.  It’s been around for almost more than 200 years: The two upper floors (which you can see from the Corniche) since 1822, the bottom part (which is hidden behind the garden wall) much longer.
Photos of the Ardati family, the owners of the house, who rented it out more than 50  years ago
The house has seen an awful lot of battle (as being explained by a lady living right behind the pink house). The Palestinians, the Syrians and the Israelis all set up base right in front of it at one point in time, and since they were all shelled heavily by opposing factions, the house was under fire quite often.
Side of the house
The house, rented by the owners some fifty years agovto the Khazen family, housed a group of Syrian soldiers at one time. Not voluntarily of course, but who could say no to the Syrians? I had a friend once, who had a Syrian colonel living in the apartment under him, right on the Corniche, in 1990. Actually, the colonel had 'taken' the apartment, as they did with all the property in Beirut. An education man he was, but not someone you’d mess with. And as educated as he was, the Syrians were very poor, at least the soldiers that were stationed in Lebanon, and when he left, he took the sinks, the tub and  the toilets with him back to Syria, leaving behind a gutted place.
Beautiful tile floor (and my red boots)
The story of the house is a common one. One family owned it, rented it out for a good price before the war (it was beach front property), but (old) Lebanese law required a fixed rent in the contract, and then when the economy went down, and the dollar went from 3 pounds to a dollar to 1,500 pounds a dollar, entire families owned properties that only cost money, and didn’t make any, whereas others lived in prime real estate for under a $2,500 a year!
The house from the back; the top floor (which would be the 4th) doesn't look like it was ever inhabated
The pink house is a similar story. Mrs. Khazen lived in the house until recently (I don't know what she paid for rent, would love to know) , until the house was sold, and she had to vacate the premises.
What is to become of the house? My guess is a real-estate developer is going to destroy it and build a 20 story, one-and-a-half million $,  400 square meters,  super deluxe apartments that will be bought by Arabs living abroad, and that will be inhabited, if the situation permits it, one month a year. That’s what’s happening with pretty much of all Beirut’s heritage.
The bottom floor of the house

And my favorite thing in the house; some water sculpture fountain things, with water coming out of the ceiling. Looks like something from the early sixties, an indoor rain curtain, very advanced for its time.  I would love to see pictures of the inside of the house during the sixties and seventies.

If we’re lucky the house will be preserved. Experience tells us that we’re seldom lucky in Beirut. More on that story here.


me said...

Waooow. Always loved this house.
is it possible to visit it still?
I would love to see it.
Pls let me know.
thaks fir the beautiful pictures.

Sietske said...

Until December 30th.. Enjoy!

me said...

Thank you :)

Anonymous said...

an interesting factoid:
after 1920, a french general, lived there.
I have no proof of that. I lived from 1958 to 1973 in the area and was told about the French General. I believe he served as Governor.

Linda said...

Lovely photos. :) said...

thank you of the information you put on the house. i visited the house today. i used to shoot from the corniche almost from 6 years and my dream was to visit its inside. i got the chance today, it is fabulous and gorgeous they shoud and must reserve it. i shooted its inside too.

Tanya Parker Mills said...

Terrific photos! We lived in the New Ardati Building on the second floor from 1971 to 1978 and our living room windows looked out on the back of the house. I always wondered what went on within those walls. Saw a lot of young men going in and out.

I posted a photo of it on my blog because I'm planning to write a novel at some point set in Beirut, in which the house will play a prominent role...though entirely fictional.

You asked on my blog if I had any stories to share. Just one: my boyfriend came over to visit in the summer of 1972 and happened to arrive before our family got back from a quick trip to Cyprus. Not knowing anyone, he checked into a hotel then walked along the Corniche. He met up with some friendly guys, who invited him back to their place--the pink house--to watch some TV. He wasn't there long before he realized he didn't share their sexual preference and he hightailed it out of there and holed up in his hotel till we got back the next day. You can imagine his discomfort when he saw we lived right next door to the house.

That's all I ever learned about the place, but, like you, I've always been drawn by its mystery.

tom young said...

part 2- The artist, interior architect and designer Sami El Khazen lived and worked on the ground floor- transforming it into a world famous interior. Sami’s parents, Sheikh Salim and Sheikha Margot El Khazen lived on the first floor. Sami’s sister Fayza lived with them from 1965-6 before she got married and then went to live in the Mathaf area.

Shortly after the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975, Sami and Fayza El Khazen went to live in Paris. Their mother, Margot stayed on living in the house throughout the war, whilst their father Salim El Khazen lived mostly in the family home in Faraya.

Sami El Khazen died in Paris in 1988. Fayza came back to Lebanon to live in the house in 1997 to look after her mother, who had become paralysed. During this time, Fayza established the publishing house ‘Terre Du Liban’- operating from the first floor of the house.

The owner Adil Ardati died a few years ago without having any children. The Ardati family lawyer sold the house and surrounding land to the property developer Hicham Jaroudi- who owns the Riyadi Sports Club under the house. Margot El Khazen died in the house in 2012. After that, Fayza El Khazen was given 2 years to leave.

In April 2014 artist Tom Young knocked on the door. Fayza El Khazen invited him in to paint. He set up a studio in the house in June. Over the next 5 months, he painted in the house as Fayza was packing to leave. Concerned about the future of the building after Fayza’s departure, he contacted Hicham Jaroudi to propose he use the house to do an exhibition. Jaroudi gave Young his blessing for the project. Fayza El Khazen left the house in October 2014. She now lives in Achrafieh, Beirut.

Tom Young used the house as an appropriate context for his work, and to give the public a chance to see inside this precious place for the first time. He is showing how empty disused buildings can live again as a public cultural spaces, in the hope that it will inspire other property owners and developers to protect the rapidly disappearing Lebanese heritage. He sees his intervention as a continuation of the artistic life which has always flourished in the house.

The exhibition opened on November 18th under the patronage of the Prime Minister Of Lebanon's wife Mrs. Lama Tammam Salam. There were a series of cultural and musical events during the exhibition. Young has also used the house as a venue to hold art workshops for students from ALBA and AUB Universities, children from local schools IC and ACS, the Home Of Hope Orphanage, SOS Children's Villages and for refugee children.

After the exhibition ended on January 30th 2015, Hicham Jaroudi has begun to renovate the house. The top floor is in urgent need of structural reinforcement.
The architect in charge is Jaques Abu Khaled- who helped renovate the Sursock Museum. It is most likely that it will become Jaroudi’s private residence.

tom young said...

thank you! here is more history I discovered, and news about the future. If you know any more detail, please get in touch-

The Rose/Pink House was built by Mohammad Ardati in 1882. He built the upper 2 floors of this house on top of his hunting lodge- which is a much older structure.

The Ardatis lived in the house for the first few decades of the 20th Century. During this time, several dignitaries came to stay- such as General De Gaulle. The Ardati family leased the first floor of the house to several people in the 20th Century, including the British Doctor Arthur Dray (who started the AUB School of Dentistry and was murdered in 1926 in mysterious circumstances) from 1911-20, and the American Cultural Attache Russ Linch and his family from 1959-64.

From 1963-4, the American abstract painter John Ferren lived upstairs. Before coming to Beirut, Ferren was a close friend of Pablo Picasso's in Paris. He stretched the canvas on which Picasso painted 'Guernica'.

One of Mohammad Ardati’s three sons, Adil Ardati leased the ground and first floor of the house to the El Khazen family from 1965-2014.