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Traces of Tripoli's modernist wonderlandAs we drive slowly across the paved walkways of the Rashid Karami Tripoli International Fair, tires crushing the weeds that have sprouted between the regimented slabs of stone, a pack of six large wild dogs comes bounding out from the shelter of a derelict concrete construction, barking furiously. The fair was originally slated for Beirut, explains architect and urban planner Mousbah Rajab, but Tripoli's residents protested and when Fouad Chehab came to power plans for the fair were shifted to the country's second city.The simplicity of Niemeyer's building material was offset by the grand scale of his plans for the site, which was to include an enormous exhibition hall, a pavilion, a rotating restaurant in a cylindrical tower that emitted jets of water, an experimental theater, an outdoor concert space, a radical communal housing project, a space museum and helipad and an enormous monumental archway.Today, the space has once again become an unofficial military base: 300 soldiers from the Lebanese army have been stationed there as part of the Tripoli security plan, explains Mokbel Malak, who has worked on the fair site for 35 years.Others, however, are not convinced that revitalizing the fair for its original purpose is the right course to follow.
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