FEA Distinguished Alumnus Award To Jad Tabet in recognition of his significant contributions to a renewed understanding of a critical social project for architecture through design, teaching, and professional practice.
Jad Tabet
BS Arch 1969
Tabet Architects & Planners
Paris, France and Beirut, Lebanon

Jad Tabet received the BS Degree in Architecture from the American University of Beirut in 1969. After graduation, he joined Paris University for postgraduate studies in urban planning (1970-71).
In 1971, Mr. Tabet started his own practice in Beirut in association with Mr. Rahif Fayad. Projects, mainly in Lebanon, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, were undertaken by the firm, most noteworthy a Master Plan for the Old City of Mukalla (Yemen) (1980-84). In 1986, Mr. Tabet established a design company in Paris (TABET ARCHITECTS & PLANNERS) in partnership with Sami Tabet. Selected projects include a Master Plan for Reuilly Quarter in Paris (1987-1990), Master plan & coordination for the Lanscaped Promenade Bastille- Reuilly and the Charenton-Daumesnil Quarter Paris ( 1999-2001), several projects for housing, educational, cultural and university buildings (1996-2002) and projects of social character in Paris: Sleep-in for drug addicts (1994), housing for homeless (1996), health care center for homeless (1997), rehabilitation of a low-cost housing quarter built in the 50’s including design of public spaces, and community facilities.
Since 1994, Mr. Tabet has prepared the Master Planner for the Reconstruction of the Souks of Beirut and, in association with URBI (Habib Debs & partners), the Master Plan for Jezzine region (5000 ha), the Master Plan for Falougha, Quornayel and Salima region (4000 ha) and the Rehabilitation and Revitalization of the Historic city of Tripoli.
Mr. Tabet taught at the American University of Beirut, the Lebanese University, and at the School of Architecture of Paris-Belleville. He has conducted seminars and lectured at many schools of architecture, most notably at the School of Architecture of Venice (Italy), the School of Architecture of Lyon (France), the Architecture department at the Polytechnic School of Lausanne (Switzerland), the School of Planning at MIT (Boston, USA), the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University (Cambridge, USA), and the Museum of Ethnography of Osaka (Japan).
Mr. Tabet is an Expert Member of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee; a Director of the International Union of Architects (UIA) Programme: Reconstructing war-torn cities; and a Member of the Administrative Board of the NGO: Patrimoine Sans Frontières.
Mr. Tabet received many awards including the Laureate of the "Palmares de la Réhabilitation" delivered by the French Ministry of Culture, July 2001 (with Sami Tabet); Golden Prism 2000 / Grand Prix National pour la Réhabilitation de l’Habitat delivered jointly by the French Ministries of Culture, Housing & Equipment (with Sami Tabet); and Prix de l’Aménagement Urbain / Le Moniteur 1993 (in collaboration with Roland Schweitzer).


Beyond Modernism and Postmodernism
Reclaiming Architecture’s Social Project

Jad Tabet
Tabet Architects & Planners
Paris, France and Beirut, Lebanon


Abstract? Modernity arose from a new awareness of the essence of industrial culture and the emerging democratic society. The pioneers of Modern movement in architecture set out to materialize the utopia of a new world through new techniques and aesthetics, emancipated from the burden of the past. They upheld the basic premise that architecture has the power to engage society and actually transform it and that art and technology, united in mass production, could bring increased social welfare as well as enlightened democratic consciousness to the downtrodden masses and contribute to the "inevitable forward march" of human progress. However, during the last decades of the 20th century, the emancipatory project of modernity has lost its moral authority and its momentum. The failure of modern movement in finding appropriate answers to housing and living problems in an era of rapid and massive worldwide urbanisation, its tendency to rely on elitist and technocratic solutions, as well as its destructive effects on natural environment and cultural heritage became more and more evident. The disenchantment with modernism as an architectural and urban system, alongside with a widespread loss of faith in the Enlightenment promise of inevitable progress, produced a radical shift in architectural discourse and practice.
Within the array of responses to this crisis of conscience, different trends began to challenge the belief systems of Modern movement. As a reaction to the International style that characterized late modern architectural production, the tenants of neo-revivalism conceive architecture as a system of signs that should express national or local identities, a language that conveys cultural meanings providing continuity with past traditions or popular cultural forms that were both denied by the stripped-bare modernist aesthetics. Other strategies challenge modernist certainties by privileging the experience of rupture, ephemerity and radical heterogeneity. In a context of continual cultural modification, where postmodern condition is described as being fragmented, discontinuous and chaotic, design is conceived as a process by which architecture dislocates its own meanings to generate new forms that produce estrangement and perceptual renewal.
Still, despite their different theoretical premises –from historicism to deconstructivism- all contemporary critical discourses share a common disengagement from the social commitment of modern movement. Architecture is no more conceived as an agent of material social change, but as a mere language, a mode of cultural expression or a system of signs. In the meantime however, globalisation is creating a new geography of centres and margins which produces increasing inequities between societies and within societies. Insecurity fuelled by structural unemployment and rising birth-rates is the lot of the poor in every society. In a time of dazzling scientific advances and technological breakthroughs, billions of human beings especially in the developing world –but also in the developed countries- are living in conditions beneath human decency. The communication revolution and the rising expectations of populations everywhere make these disparities even more visible and the potential for social pathologies and politically explosive situations more likely. The social distance between cultures and their ability to communicate with one another being affected by these growing disparities, the resulting ethnic differences reflect in social tension and conflicts.
Amidst these new conditions, can architecture stay aside, responding to social and economic realities through a retreat into formalism and the marketing of aesthetic images or the play with meanings and metaphors? Is the design of the built environment of no more consequence to humanity than the Haute couture of the Paris fashion houses? While criticizing modernism's idealistic and totalising frameworks, and its naive pretension to change the world through architecture, we must recognise that the making of architecture is a social process and that architects cannot shirk professional and social responsibility for their practices. At a time when more than 95% of the built environment is being shaped without any professional intervention by architects, it becomes urgent to reconstruct a social agenda for architecture, to avoid the risk for our professional practice to be marginalized, or transformed into a mere production of commercial images.
The real challenge for architects in this new century is to build up both a new critical discourse and a new constructive practice that deal with reducing social and economic inequities and increase the empowerment of people and communities.

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