Artistic creativity has always been an important component of life in Beirut. A buoyant city sitting on the Eastern shores of the Mediterranean, Beirut is at the same time an Arab city and a European one. In this sense, it is similar to many other Mediterranean harbours that have served as links between countries and cultures. But Beirut has been more and it remains so. It is the gate to the Orient and to the West. For the European, it is the easy Orient and for the Oriental, it is the easy West. It offers a space of transition and, in this space, it offers freedom of thought and an intellectual arena that has shaped the thinking of the Near and Middle-East.

It is in Beirut that the Nahda (awakening) of the Arab literature and thought took place in the mid 19th century, and it is at the same period that the Arab theatre was born. Since then, Beirut has never ceased to be a place of creation and of freedom of thought. The first universities of the Middle East were created in Beirut and the first modern Arabic literature that shaped the Arab novel and poetry began in Beirut.
This House of Arts and Culture comes at the right time to boost the already very active creativity that is taking place in Beirut since the end of the period of violence that rocked Lebanon between 1975 and 1990. All of a sudden, all the small individual efforts to keep alive theatres, poetry, music, painting and sculpture during these difficult times, have projected Lebanese artists and performers in the World arena where more and more of them is gaining an international reputation. If the Lebanese publishing industry has kept its key role in the Arab World, it is now the Lebanese artists that are gaining a key role in the World.

Freedom of thought, of expression and of creation, a multicultural place such as Lebanon requires a special arts and culture centre. It has to be exceptional in its contents, its functioning and its architecture. Though its presence must be felt and recognized, it should remain unobtrusive of all the efforts that have taken place, that continue to take place and that deserve to be supported.