Book Review: "Robert Polidori: Hotel Petra"
By Tyler Austin
Robert Polidori is known for beautiful images of architecture, urban environments and interior space. His photos highlight the color, contrast, details, and composition of the buildings and spaces he works with.
His career has taken him around the world documenting many of its iconic spaces. Recently he traveled to Lebanon, and while there photographed an abandoned hotel, Hotel Petra, that once stood in the nation’s capital.
The Hotel was once a place constantly filled with all kinds of guests traveling in and throughout Beirut, thriving until just after the end of the Lebanese Civil War, which raged on from 1975-1990. The combination of the building’s architecture, status and location made it one of the top places to stay while in the area.
Although the hotel officially closed in 1992, Polidori managed to take a look inside the architectural wonder in 2010 and see first hand all of the history it's managed to hold onto. The result, a photobook named after the hotel.
The book, Hotel Petra, is filled with all kinds of sharp and detailed images that catalog the decay of the space that’s happened over the past 18 years.
The walls; painted over and over again throughout its existence, now show a dull and tired rainbow of colors that reveal themselves in reverse order. Almost mimicking the scales of a fish, the once vibrant colors that filled the walls of the hotel now stand chipped, faded, and broken.
“I came to view these walls as a living process of slow decay whose end effect closely resembled the concerns of many contemporary abstract painters,” Polidori explains in the book. “...Only in this case their genesis was not fixed or intentional, but the gradual summation of several painters and workmen modifying the wall surfaces at many different times.”
The wallpapers that once stretched for lengths of entire floors now roll in on themselves and retreat to shadowed corners as they’ve been left unattended for nearly two decades. The sunlight beaming in from scattered windows and gashes in the building collides with floating dust particles creating a 3D experience throughout the hotel’s halls.
Now demolished, the book “Hotel Petra,” is one of the only ways to appreciate the greatness of this hotel and the history it once held.