Assem Salam, an icon, an architect with deeply engrained principles, died on Sunday November 4, at his home in Zuqaq al Blat, at age 88.
Assem Salam was an architect with a political vision, something which propelled him to lead the Order of Engineers and Architects of Beirut, becoming its president in 1995. Under his tenure, he fully reorganized the Order of Engineers and Architects.
Up until the late 1950s, there were few architects in Lebanon and the region. Those who designed buildings were architectural engineers. Along with Raymond Ghosn, Assem Salam, who graduated from Cambridge in 1950, founded the School of Architecture [today, Department of Architecture and Design] in the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture at AUB.
It was this generation of mainly European-trained architects that would help the region start differentiating between engineering and architecture. "In the early 1960s we started the School of Architecture at AUB and local architects began to emerge," Salam had said.
Assem Salam was a major actor in creating a generation of architecture graduates between 1954 to 1979. Any graduate of that period will remember his remarkable sense of criticism during juries. In one glance, he would find the strengths and weaknesses of any project. His opinion was revered by other jurors as well as students.
In addition to being a pioneer in helping develop the region’s modern architects, Salam also worked to protect Lebanon’s vernacular and traditional architecture. Committed to preserving Lebanese architecture, Salam and others founded APSAD (Association pour la Protection des Sites et Anciennes Demeures) in the 1960s, an organization that works on preserving Lebanon’s traditional architecture.
Assem Salam will be remembered for his multifaceted achievements.