A winner of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for his role in the ongoing restoration of the Azem Palace in Damascus, Michel Ecochard (1905-1985) donated his archive to the Award. The collection represents his work as an architect, urban planner and archaeologist, and demonstrates his keen interest in photography and aviation.
After his studies at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, he was first based in Damascus and then in Beirut from 1931 to 1944, in Rabat from 1946 to 1952 and in Paris from 1953 to 1983. He worked in the Near East under the French Mandate on excavations at Baalbek and numerous restorations, notably on the site of Palmyra. Named architectural adviser to the Syrian government in 1934, he undertook many restoration works in Syria in the 1930s, including the Azem Palace in Damascus, home of the French Institute, on whose grounds he constructed a modern director’s house. He carried out research on the documentation of hammams in Damascus with the architect Claude Le Coeur , then on the construction of the Museum there, having done that of Antioch (Antakya) in 1931.
After having worked on an urban plan for Damascus, he served as director of the Service d’urbanisme in Syria from 1940 to 1944, establishing a new and ambitious urban plan for Beirut (1943-1944). In 1945 he began to look at the principles of functional urban planning while traveling with Le Corbusier on a tour of the United States. He implemented these ideas in various cities of Morocco when he became director of urban planning. His ambitious plan for Casablanca was approved in 1952 but he refused to submit to pressure from developers for modifications and resigned his post.
After presenting his experience in Morocco at the ninth CIAM conference in 1953, he worked in Pakistan, designing the University of Karachi, in Africa, with the urban plan of Conakry (1959), universities at Abidjan (1962-1978) and Yaoundé (1963) and the urban planning of Dakar (1963), as well as on projects in Iran. In 1955, he designed, with another French architect Claude Lecoeur, the Collège Protéstant in Beirut along with a series of other high schools and hospitals.
The most ambitious architectural project of his later career was the Museum of Kuwait from 1960 and a new urban plan that he developed a new plan for Beirut, concentrating on infrastructure (1961). He then outlined a new urban plan for Damascus, with a focus on the circulation of traffic.
He was put in charge of of urbanism at the Ecole des beaux arts in Paris (1967) and continued to pursue projects in both France and the developing world until the 1980s.
Sisters of Charity School for girls is located in the north of the country near Lebanon's second largest city, Tripoli. At the time, Écochard
was in charge of several projects in the country. He undertook this assignment
at the beginning of the 1960s in collaboration with the Lebanese architect,
project includes an extensive program consisting of two schools, one free and
one fee-paying, each with several classrooms and various sports facilities, as
well as a church.
of the plan revolves around worship, teaching, the boarding school, general
services, sport and the community. This approach is realized by an organisation
that places at the center, between the orphanage and the fee-paying school, the
core of the project, which is composed of the community, the refectory, the
chapel and the sports field.
Characteristic of the ensemble
on this hilly is an urban façade dominated by the chapel. The topography molds
a program that begins with the free school including nursery, orphanage and
primary school, followed by the technical school, refectory and the community
functions and, finally, a third group housing the fee-paying boarding school
composed of primary, secondary and kindergarten classes. These buildings find
themselves, through the overlaps of their heights, interacting with the
contours of the land. This aspect is reinforced by a façade treatment that
accentuates the horizontal. The chapel is detached from the ensemble by its
height and by blind walls unlike the rest of the project elements.