The BeMA Case: We demand the restitution of the rightful winner!

The BeMA Case: We demand the restitution of the rightful winner!

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After having won the Beirut Museum of Modern Art (BeMA) competition and two years of pro bono work, Hala Warde Architects was abruptly shunned away from the project without any justification. 

Head of the jury Lord Peter Palumbo as well as other internationally renowned architects on the panel (Rem Koolhaas, Richard Rogers, Julia Peyton-Jones, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Zaha Hadid) saw their decision overturned by competition organizer APEAL (The Association for the Promotion and Exhibition of the Arts in Lebanon) without any rational explanation.

The non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Lebanese art took the decision to bypass the ruling of the jury and appoint Amal Andraos (WorkAC) as the winner, completely disavowing the winners’ original work.

The real polemic around the issue rises from the total lack of accountability of all parties involved in this decision who failed to provide any clear explanation for the complete dismissal of the jury's original attribution and the appointment of a another winner. 

Since this project is set to transcend the national borders and place Beirut once again on the international and regional cultural map, appointing the right and most deserving architect is essential to its success. With years of experience and a portfolio which includes the Louvre in Abu Dhabi and other international cultural projects, Hala Warde was obviously the right candidate for the BEMA project and rightfully gained the jury's vote. 

To select the right winner, the competition board appointed a competent objective jury who based its decision on specific international standards. The decision to dismiss the jury's choice can represent a dangerous precedent for future architecture competitions, discouraging talented architects from participating thus hindering the development of cultural and architectural fields. Overall, this behavior sets a bad example and precedent, which paves the way towards further abuse and corruption not only in the field, but also in the country. 

All architects should act responsibly and ethically in the field by abstaining and opposing any activity involving corruption, prejudice or illegitimacy. Not doing so would be a blatant lack of professionalism.

The decision of APEAL is a flagrant sign of disrespect not only towards Hala Warde and her team but also to the entire architect community. Since she firmly believed in the profession and the revival of the country’s cultural and art scene, she agreed to work two years pro bono on the project after wining even though she insisted the production costs be covered and her collaborators as well as contributors be paid for their work.  

The deliberate dismissal of the expert panel's decision is a great sign of disrespect and a gesture against the general public interest, favoring private interest (of the few) while undermining the profession as a whole, ultimately impeding the development of the rich Lebanese culture.

 

Timeline of the Events:

14 October 2015: Open call for the competition

4 January 2016: Closing dates for Stage 1 submission

28-30 September 2016: Jury deliberation in Beirut

13 October 2016: Announcement of Winner – Hala Warde

11 September 2018: Hala Warde is ejected from the project

18 December 2018: Announcement by the New York time of Amal Andraos as the new winner of the competition

19 December 2018: BeMA announces officially the appointment of Amal Andraos 

 

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