Saving Hotel du lac

By Jihene Essanaa


At the beginning of November, a multitude of pictures circulated on social networks; we see the legendary “Hotel du Lac” with an inscription in huge orange letters on its facade "لا للهدم", which means “No to Demolition”. This committed slogan; worked by the “Jemal” sisters; Mouna and Manna, respectively artist and architect, has gone viral. Since then, a few associations and artists have been fighting to keep the emblematic hotel alive.

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This hotel; known for its particular shape resembling an inverted pyramid and which inspired the creator of "Star Wars'', has seen better days... How, what is supposed to be one of the beating hearts of the city of Tunis, is sold to a Libyan company which plans to turn it into a luxury hotel and a shopping center! For Yesmine Karray; poet/writer, we are “fleeing a heritage: One of the most charged places in our history, the one that speaks in the most glaring way, our rich culture and identity; and the one which at the same time, shouts in our face our pathetic incapacity to preserve it and to enhance it.”
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"Tunis centre ville x Patrimoini"; a collective exhibition was, for this purpose, organized by “the Goethe institute”, “Central Tunis”and “Édifices & mémoires”. Started on Monday, December 21, is on view at the gallery “42” located at 42, Rue Ben Ghedhahem Tunis and will continue until February 18th, 2021.

Through the eyes of almost thirty Tunisian artists, including Othman Selmi, Atelier Glibett, Ahmed Kraiem, and Mena Messai, we set off to (re)discover the hotel du Lac. from photographs, models, to illustrations, drawings, and interactive installations.


Aymen Mbarki, one of the exhibitors of “Tunis centre ville x Patrimoini” , talked to us about his approach: “The city of Tunis has always fascinated me, it was natural for me to exhibit some of my drawings and illustrations. My goal is, like many artists, to sensitize people and make them aware of our heritage, and especially to help by some means to save it.”


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This approach is all the more important as it forces us to ask ourselves what heritage represents for each of us and whether we choose to conserve or demolish it, not just because we like it or not, but with regard to its landmark role for the history of our country…
At Central Tunis, the custom is to launch thematic exhibitions every quarter, so it is no surprise that Soumaya Jebnouni, co-founder of "Patrimoini" event, made it a point of honor to collaborate with “Goethe Institut Tunis” and “Edifices et Mémoires” for an artistic project on the theme of downtown Tunis. “It is a richness to have artists who collaborate to save the treasures of our country. by making the exhibition, we believe that the Hotel du Lac could become a textbook case, an awakening of conscience because we have a unique architecture that is threatened nowadays and that we must at all costs preserve”. 
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An event is scheduled for early february with the ministry of culture to discuss the fate of our architecture, to arouse the interest of citizens for the facades of our buildings. “Many citizens do not pay attention to the facades of buildings in the city center. There are people who work in the center of Tunis, who go every morning to work and who have never paid attention to the beauty of the architecture ".
In this effect, a guided tour of Tunis, organized by Hatem Bourial; a well-known figure in culture and the press, is on the program to combine the culture and architecture of our heritage.
A bike tour with the collective “Debo” and the association "Vélorution" will be organized soon, as well as some guided tours for culinary heritage and street food. These are initiatives to “make a difference” according to Soumaya. 
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The Hotel du lac, former star in the architectural landscape of Tunis, remains a symbol of modernity. And even if the wear and tear of time has done its job, no one doubts the value of this building so dear to the hearts of Tunisians.
Of course, it's up to us to reconsider this heritage and try to change mentalities. The Hotel du Lac, with its triangular silhouette placed on the point, continues to mark the urban Tunis and, above all, the spirits. 


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