When it comes to the preservation of Lebanese heritage, few have made as big of an impact as Lady Yvonne Sursock Cochrane. Having spent her life advocating for art and culture in her native country, the renowned patron and philanthropist passed away on Monday at 98-years-old, due to injuries she suffered as a result of the explosion that shook Beirut on August 4.
Lady Cochrane, who was born in Beirut in 1922 as a member of the wealthy Greek Orthodox Sursock family, was also a long-time champion of Lebanon’s heritage, particularly in the wake of the Lebanese civil war in the 1970s and 80s. She dedicated her life to preserving the nation’s architectural gems and supporting the arts scene through building one of Beirut’s best art museums, the Sursock Museum where she served as president and general manager from 1960 until 1966.
“We’re deeply saddened by the passing of Lady Yvonne Sursock Cochrane, who campaigned tirelessly for the preservation of Lebanon’s architectural heritage throughout her life,” the museum said in a statement on Instagram.
Photography by Stefan Ruiz, The New York Times
Upon establishing the Association for the Protection of the Natural Sites and Ancient Buildings, Lady Cochrane served as its president until 2002. The organisation worked to preserve many of Lebanon’s historic buildings, including the National Museum. She was also vehemently against the destruction of older homes in Beirut and was known for her deep critiques of the Lebanese government’s reconstruction efforts after the civil war. Her efforts continued right up until her death, continuously pushing against real estate developers who were keen to build skyscrapers than preserve the city’s character.
Sursock Palace by Stefan Ruiz, The New York Times