Page 1

AT THE EDGE OF THE CITY

FOREWORD BY GEORGE ARBID

REINHABITING PUBLIC SPACE TOWARD THE RECOVERY OF BEIRUT'S HORSH AL-SANAWBAR EDITED BY FADI SHAYYA


A DISCURSIVE FORMATIONS book, first edition published in 2010 © Fadi Shayya, 2010 Copyright for individual texts rests with the authors and translators Copyright for images rests with the photographers unless otherwise stated DVD film © Lasse Lau, 2008; Poster © Danny Khoury, 2009 Book & DVD cover design by Danny Khoury Copy editing & Proofreading by Sonya Knox Layout & Design by Danny Khoury Typeset in Titillium & DIN Schrift Layout software is Adobe InDesign CS3 Printed on Wood Free 120g, cover is Invercoat 350g All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher, except in the case of reviews. For permission to reproduce or transmit any part of this book in any form or by any means, please contact the editor at fadi.shayya@yahoo.com Every reasonable attempt has been made to identify owners of copyright. Errors or omissions will be corrected in subsequent editions. ISBN: 978-9953-0-1537-8 Printed & bound by 53 dots (Dar El Kotob), Beirut, Lebanon DVD replicated and printed by Skyline CD, Beirut, Lebanon This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Middle East Office. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and can therefore in no way be taken to reflect the opinion of the Foundation.

www.discursiveformations.net

www.boell-meo.org


Contents

8/

PREFACE

9/

ACkNOWLEDGmENTS

11/

FOREWORD

13/

INTRODUCTION

17/

PART ONE: AN INTRICATE URBAN CONTExT

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Beirut Became Her Sea. So, Let’s Plant the Sea! > Bilal Khbeiz

23/

From Woods to Park: A Historical & Ethnographic Investigation of Programming the Landscape of the Horsh > Fadi Shayya

29/

Guardians of the Wood > Bachar Al-Amine

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Re: No Choice > Fouad Asfour

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A Transforming Landscape > Images courtesy GIS Transport & Directorate of Geographic Affairs

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Evolution of the Horsh > Infographics by Fadi Shayya, Lina Abou Reslan, & Nancy Hamad

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Beyrouth - Promenade des Pins (circa1895) > Postcard by Anonymous

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Seeing the Imaginary: A Story behind Pine Nuts > Lasse Lau

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Silent Witnesses: Old Pine Trees of the Horsh > Photos by Danny Khoury

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Pine Trees Don’t Make Pine Nuts Anymore > Painting by Sumayyah Samaha

Hyding the Park > George Arbid The Discursive Formation of Reinhabiting & Recovery > Fadi Shayya

5


6

Contents

65/

PART TWO: HETEROTOPIAS OF PARk & CITY

67/

On Modernity, Urbanity, & Urban Dwellers > Hussein Yaakoub

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The Real Versus the Imagined City: A Traveler’s Notes on Imagining Public Space > Fadi Shayya

79/

Zone 9: The Horsh in the Master Plan of Beirut > Master plan courtesy the Municipality of Beirut

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Thoughts on the Horsh on a Sleepless Night: Dichotomies of Space, Values, Ethics, & Us > Jana Nakhal

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Stitching the Scar: The Horsh as a Site for “Collected Memories” > Rola Idris

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More Green Space Disappears: ISF to Take 9,000 Square Meters of Horsh Beirut: The Municipality has Agreed that a Temporary Police Station Can Be Built > Nada Bakri

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From Non-Sense to Economic-Sense > Lana Salman

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Excluding & Excluded: The Nature & Processes of Exclusion from the City > Tara Mahfoud

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Odyssey in the Park: A Journey of Understanding Women & Public Space > Nancy Hamad, Sara AbouGhazal, & Jana Nakhal

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Horsh Mosaic > Infographics by François Eid

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What He Didn’t Tell Me or Perhaps What He Didn’t Know… > Ghassan Maasri

117/

Open Public Spaces in Beirut > Infographics by Fadi Shayya, Lina Abou Reslan, & Nancy Hamad

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Terra Verte > Marwan Rechmaoui

125/

PART THREE: TRANSIENT CITIzENSHIP, TRANSIENT PUBLIC SPACE

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The Empty Park: Deciphering Ideas of Public Space & Citizenship in Horsh Beirut > Rana Andraos

132/

Beyrouth - La Forêt des Pins - Les Courses (circa 1920) > Postcard by Anonymous

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The Horsh in Lebanese Law > Compiled by Bassam Chaya


Contents

135/

2005 Research Interviews > Fadi Shayya

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Beirut’s Public Space (or Lack Thereof) > Hanin Ghaddar

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If It Exists, Sensibility Is Not Enough: Struggle for Urban Parks in Beirut > Salman Abbas

146/

Beyrouth - Promenade des Pins (circa 1935) > Postcard by Anonymous

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MP, Activist See Red over Green Spaces: AUB Debate over Parks Generates More Heat than Light > Samar Kanafani

149/

Structural Connectivity: Alternative Design Strategies to Reconnect the Park to Its Context > Studio ALBA

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A Picnic in “Bois des Pins” > The Picnic Group

161/

"Take Only Memories, Leave Nothing but Footprints" > Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon

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Inside Out [1]: Contemporary Photographic Documentation of the Horsh > Photos by Fouad Asfour

173/

Inside Out [2]: Contemporary Photographic Documentation of the Horsh > Photos by Fadi Shayya

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Beirut Park > Poster by Danny Khoury

177/

A Comparative Perspective of Open, Green Spaces > Infographics by Gregoire & Serge Serof

180/

Book Covers > Artwork by Danny Khoury

181/

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

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CONTRIBUTORS' BIOGRAPHIES

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CREDITS

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PROFILES

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13

INTRODUCTION FADI SHAYYA

the diSCurSive formAtion of reinhAbiting & reCovery > SeArChing for An AlternAtive diSCourSe In Beirut, as in urban agglomerations across the globe, public space constitutes an interactive landscape of convergence and/or conflict. Nevertheless, public space as part of spatial planning is neither a priority for, nor an integral component of, the agenda of public policy or spatial design at the Lebanese municipal and national levels. On the rare occasions where it is included in the agenda, public space is dealt with as a product of urban design that is restricted to formal aesthetics and affected by the availability of resources and institutional capacity. Despite this prevailing reality, we need something different. Not different in a flashy sense, but rather to convey and influence an alternative discourse on public space. The social and political constructs of this complex and complicated country manifest in a recurring dichotomy: either Lebanon is bravely unique within its regional – and sometimes international – context, or Lebanon is retrograde with its deficient state and the ill-mannered behaviors of its citizens. This discourse is reflected in the conceptualizing of public space in Beirut, where Beirutis share a socio-economic, political, and cultural centrality amid the Lebanese landscape. Since the early 1990s, Beirut’s Park1 – Horsh Al-Sanawbar – has been sealed off from the lives of many Beiruti residents and visitors. Regardless of the justification of this exclusion, a major section of the park has been quarantined for nearly 20 years now – in addition to the civil war years. In a country where confessional politics and hegemonic influences (domestic and foreign) prevail, and a dragging, dire, social agenda and economy stagger in parallel, the appeal of spatial justice as part of a modern citizenship’s fundamental components becomes secondary, or tertiary. The closure of this huge public space is a deviation from the norm of modern states and societies; and still, people accepting this closure – willingly or unwillingly – enact an atypical acceptance of what is not right, not constitutional, and not just. People continue to live this reality, as they have done with other severe and more pressing realities, and this has become part of their discourse of “how things work” in Lebanon.


14

Introduction

This deviation from the norm can be better understood within a framework of postcolonial analysis, where modern institutional systems of the state – including spatial planning – have always depended on copying or borrowing from advanced, influential systems ranging from the Ottoman Empire, to the French Mandate, and to Globalization and Americanization. This copying or borrowing perpetuated a constant deviation from “the way things should work,” until people in Lebanon developed a discourse accustomed to deviation as the norm; as tolerant of deviance as of the practice itself. Or, rather, is it that this behavior, which is regarded as “deviation from the way things should work,” is, in fact, a conscious/unconscious practice of contesting alien constructs and appropriating alternative frames of cultural reference?

> reinhAbiting AS pArt of the proCeSS of reCovery With the early drafts of the book’s contributions, it was not a surprise to find that many authors referred to the closed section of the park as the, “secret garden,” “forbidden garden,” or “paradise.” One can easily read the discourse of “deviation from the norm,” where citizens speak of the inaccessible public space, as an inherent linguistic and conceptual contradiction between “inaccessible” and “public.” This semantic confusion of “public” is evident when, in Beirut, a park2 becomes a botanical garden; a garden3 becomes an asphalt area with some green space left over; a plaza4 becomes infrastructure like an intersection of streets; and, leftover, small places5 become green spaces. This discursive condition creates a view of things “at the edge;” there is neither discipline nor decisiveness in concept or in practice. Similarly, the public space of Beirut’s Park lies at the edge of modernity, politics, social convention, conflict, power, class, and confessionalism; the park itself is at the edge of history, memory, nature, and design; and, the location is actually at the geographic edge of city and suburb. Therein lies the book’s title, At the Edge of the City. But how can one account for transitioning – at least analytically – a public space from being at the edge of the city into becoming at the center of daily social practice? How can one suggest an alternative discourse to the constant treatment of public space as a dichotomy of total freedom and absolute control? Public space acquires its key significance because it constitutes the institutional intersection and spatial interface between governing and governed, policy directives and institutional competence, state and citizen. In this regard, the subtitle of the book reflects an investigation of the meanings of a park and the dimensions of public space in Beirut. The undertaking involves a contemporary documentation, reading, and analysis of Horsh Al-Sanawbar; more specifically, how it transformed from a seventeenth century pine woods to a twentieth century park. But, the contemporary condition of Horsh Al-Sanawbar from woods to park and from open to closed space propelled an alternative discourse to promote, in return, its re-opening such that it sustains its raison d’être and the investment of rehabilitation. In order to, “avoid words that are already overladen with conditions and consequences,” in order to define a, “regularity (an order, correlations, positions and functionings, transformations),” one has to deal with a, “discursive formation.”6 The input of two critical colleagues and friends was of great value: George Arbid, who specialized in Modern architecture and urbanism; and Fouad Asfour, an expert in linguistics and criticism. George suggested the concept of “recovery,” and Fouad proposed the concept of “reinhabiting.”


Introduction “Recovery” carries the physical meaning of healing or restoring to a former, “better” state. It conceptually indicates a “positive status” of transformation or becoming, like the condition the book is trying to bring forward. Recovery in terms of Horsh Al-Sanawbar is integral to getting the public back to the public space, which leads to “reinhabiting.” In the language of bioregionalism,7 “to reinhabit” the place where you live means to become aware of these natural boundaries, to become conscious of the landforms, weather patterns, soils, native plants and animals, indigenous human history, and other unique inherent features of the area. In other words, reinhabiting Horsh Al-Sanawbar implies that governing authorities and citizens utilize and respect the environmental, social, cultural, and historical context of the park through governance and practice, respectively. This is a new opportunity for an alternative “discursive formation.” The undertaking of this book is an alternative discourse in and of itself, which advocates reinhabiting public space towards the recovery of Horsh Al-Sanawbar. The discursive formation takes places within the framework of reinventing the public space of Beirut’s Park from a mere social collector to a multi-layered, socially and environmentally encompassing, holistic, urban landscape, one all the more vital after the traumatic experience of the civil war.

> SpACe, plACe, And people To present a holistic landscape and to spark a discursive transformation, At the Edge of the City assimilates many, although not all, layers of analysis and readings of Beirut’s Park, ranging from practices, culture, economics, gender, social groups, memory, meaning, environment, nature and design, to others. The texts and visuals include different senses and modalities of how public space could be addressed, reaching from sensory perceptions – for example through smell, feeling, moving, breathing, touching, expanding – to addressing public memories and social practices, and even to fictive imaginations. The book is structured into three main parts: the first documents the intricate urban context; the second analyzes “heterotopias”8 of space; and, the third presents citizens’ interaction. In An Intricate Urban Context, the authors discuss the history of the park and evolving meanings of public space. From pine woods in the seventeenth century to a park in the twentieth century, Horsh Al-Sanawbar is established within Beiruti memory and continues to be a part of its imagination due to its current closure. Collective memory and social imagination in Beirut are continuously located in a peculiar context of difference, division, conflict, coexistence, and creativity. Amidst the reproduction of fear and division – during and post the civil war – and amidst dire socioeconomic disparities, people continue to remember, practice, and appropriate the public space of the city. Spatial coexistence, in Beirut’s loaded context, becomes synonymous with political and cultural coexistence. In Heterotopias of Park & City, the authors investigate the spatial connections between Beirut and its park through the lenses of Modernity, spatial justice, confessional divisions, exclusion, gender equality, and environmental ethics. The place, its rehabilitation, and the closure of Horsh Al-Sanawbar constitute experimental fields for the authorities and citizens of Beirut to try to manifest recovery from the civil war and reinhabit a “missed” Modernity. The park and the city seem at odds, and Foucault’s notion of a heterotopia dominates all utopian imaginations of a place that is supposed to bring people together.

15


16

Introduction

In Transient Citizenship, Transient Public Space, the authors inscribe citizens’ understandings of ownership of public space and their consequent practices and experiences of advocacy and activism to reclaim their domain. Enacting citizenship through public space is questioned as an imported, political, and cultural construct against practices of claiming and reclaiming collective ownership. Thus, when a group of citizens decide to mobilize to reclaim the spatial design, green space, or picnic space of the park, their citizenship is enacted. However, whether citizenship (and its enactment) or the public space (and its domain) is transient remains a central controversy in the context of the confused meanings of Beirut.

> leAving the door open Setting a discourse is not an easy task, especially when a discursive formation is alien to the context, such as when the notion of “public space” might be alien to Beirut. A certain level of discipline and decisiveness is required to situate concepts and their semantic equivalents. However, the objectives and aspirations of setting a discourse in this book are rooted in the attempt itself to re-imagine, re-invent, and reinhabit the public space of Horsh Al-Sanawbar as part of the process to recovery. Through exploring issues of advocacy and politics, the book aims to provide a platform to contest the existing governance of Horsh Al-Sanawbar and to bring forward a well-informed public space public policy agenda. All articles aim to shape an understanding of continuously evolving meanings of public space in Beirut, opening up the discussion and raising questions, and challenging the status quo – as well as the social imagination – of public space itself. As people aspire to pragmatic hopes, and not promised utopias, public space can become a measure of social justice and spatial equity where it transcend its “placeness” to become a deliverable of socio-political organization.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Beirut’s Park currently represents 1.4 percent of scarce open green space in a 25 sq.km. municipal city, with 1.5 million inhabitants in the greater metropolitan area For example, Beirut’s Park is divided into many sections that may not precisely fall under the categorization of “park.” For example, many public gardens in municipal Beirut. For example, Sahat Khaled Alwan [Khaled Alwan Plaza] at the intersection of Abdelaziz and Hamra streets in Beirut. For example, the many leftover places that are turned into isolated, fenced-in green areas in municipal Beirut. Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith (London & New York: Routledge, 2002) [L’Archéologie du Savoir, 1969]. The term “reinhabit” originated in the bioregionalism movement of the 1970s. Still active today, the movement calls for defining areas based not on ecologically meaningless political boundaries, but instead on geographic boundaries and ecological characteristics. Foucault, Michel. “Of Other Spaces: Heterotopias.” Vers. This text was first published as “Des Espace Autres” by the French journal Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité in October, 1984. Translated from the French by Jay Miskowiec. 1984. Michel Foucault, Info. 12 March 2009.


23

FADI SHAYYA

from woodS to pArk

A HISTORICAL & ETHNOGRAPHIC INVESTIGATION OF PROGRAmmING THE LANDSCAPE OF THE HORSH

This article is an edited version of "Enacting Public Space: History and Social Practices of Beirut’s Horsh Al-Sanawbar," a graduate research paper awarded Best Paper in Architecture & Design (www.aub.edu.lb/fea/feasc) at the fifth Faculty of Engineering and Architecture Students’ Conference, and featured in its Proceedings 2006, American University of Beirut.

> the unfolding of A publiC entity According to Anis Freiha, Beirut gets its name from the Phoenician word Beriet or Egyptian word Barût, which translates to sanawbar (pine) in Arabic.1 This linguistic association has much to tell about the native Mediterranean pine trees and their geography, a relation that will contribute later to the making of the Pine Woods or “Horsh Al-Sanawbar” in Beirut. Historically, travelers’ notes date the development and organization of the Horsh back to Emir Fakhreddin II Maan (1598-1635). The notes speak of the beautiful, visual stretch at the southern entrance of Beirut that helped filter the southwesterly winds carrying dust and sand from the southwest sand dunes, providing fresh air full of the pines’ pleasant smell2 and making the water springs more abundant.3 In his account,4 Taha Al-Wali presents the following chronology of the origins of the Pine Woods. In the early seventeenth century, Emir Fakhreddin II Maan envisioned and implemented the making of the Pine Woods; pine trees


33

FOUAD ASFOUR

re: no ChoiCe

Dear Fadi, Thank you very much for asking me to write a text for your publication about Beirut’s Park. At first it sounded like a straightforward request to me, especially given the circumstances of our first meeting in Horsh Al-Sanawbar in November 2005. Back then, you saw me climbing over the fence of the closed section of the park and observed, “You must be a foreigner;” our inspiring discussion continued throughout the day. However, when I started to write about Beirut’s Park, I realized that my perspective is very much influenced by spectatorship and exoticism, a generally touristic way of moving in the city. This dilemma made me think about my history and identity. In the words of Mario Erdheim, you cannot escape an anthropological stance when you are facing other people, places, and cultures.1 Erdheim points out that the observations of the anthropologist are biased and do not so much inform about the culture under observation, as they inform about the one who is observing. So, first of all, I need to be aware that while on the one hand I am connected to Beirut through my family’s history, on the other hand, there is no way that I can talk about the contemporary reality of Beirut unless I were to live there for a longer time, interacting with people and places, and learning about local history and local stories.


Asfour / Re: No Choice

Paradiesg채rtlein (St채del Museum/ARTOTHEK)

41


44

GIS, DGA / A Transforming Landscape

Aerial view of the park within Municipal Beirut (GIS/Transport, 2006)


47

INFOGRAPHICS BY FADI SHAYYA, LINA ABOU RESLAN, & NANCY HAmAD

evolution of the horSh


48

The old road connecting Beirut to the villages south of the city (that will become the Southern Suburbs later on) (Anonymous, circa 1895)


Lau / Seeing the Imaginary

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56

Lau / Seeing the Imaginary

The documentary DVD “Pine Nuts” is featured at the end of the book (Lau, 2008)


81

JANA NAkHAL

thoughtS on the horSh on A SleepleSS night DICHOTOmIES OF SPACE, VALUES, ETHICS, & US

> SpAtiAl Competition I had once visited the closed section of the park and met with a woman who works on the propagation and maintenance of the nursery. Amidst small plots of land, seeds, and a frail trellis, we chatted about trees, native species, propagation methods, and weeds. I remember sitting with her in the shade, discussing plants – while I observed the far silhouette of buildings surrounding the park – and wondering, “Do you really believe we are still in Beirut?” The city seemed far, unreal, and childish. I still have this feeling every time I go to the Horsh. It seemed so difficult for me to grasp the possible proximity of Beirut to this place. Not because I wasn’t used to be in a green space in Beirut, but because of both those places’ grandeur, impact, and contrast. Each one seemed incredibly sane by itself, real and complete. Both seemed to need no other; both seemed true. Yet when sitting in the closed section of the park, I realized the reality of both and their rivalry. It was as if either Beirut or the Horsh would engulf the other. As if this is why a border – a strong separation line – needed to be drawn. I started thinking of both of them separately: the park and the city, the inside and the outside, the green and the multicolored, the sinuous and the broken, the organic and the post-organic, the utopia and the


84

Nakhal / A Sleepless Night


85

ROLA IDRIS

StitChing the SCAr

THE HORSH AS A SITE FOR "COLLECTED mEmORIES"

This text is an edited version of the architecture final year project Remembrance: People’s Inscriptions (American University of Beirut), which received the 2008 Rifaat Chaderji Award for Architecture and Society at the Order of Engineers and Architects-Beirut.

This text is an edited version of the architecture final year project “Remembrance: People’s Inscriptions” (American University of Beirut), which received the 2008 Rifaat Chaderji Award for Architecture and Society at the Order of Engineers and Architects-Beirut.

> the enCounter There is a green crayon that animates our childhood drawings. The “Picasso” is never complete without the final frantic touches that fill the white spaces with green. Fill them so the picture is complete. Scribble till the smell of wax from the green crayon fulfills a momentary childhood “high.” How come the green crayon is always missing from the coloring box? Ever notice how everyone always needs the green crayon to finish their drawing? We grow up thinking that it’s easy to simply fill the white with green, it’s a last minute thing,


Idris / Stitching the Scar

Model of underground floor (Idris, 2008)

Model of overground floor (Idris, 2008)

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TARA mAHFOUD

exCluding & exCluded THE NATURE & PROCESSES OF ExCLUSION FROm THE CITY

“Take me to Horsh Al-Sanawbar.” “Where’s that?” “On the airport road.” I get into the taxi car and the driver asks me where it is I want to go exactly. I haven’t been there before, but I say it’s a large park and that he won’t miss it. He looks over at the man sitting next to him and laughs. Then he looks back at me through the rear-view mirror and, through his missing tooth, smiling, says, “It’s next to Shatila, right?” I say, “Yes, right there.”1 Approaching the park, the taxi drives along what looks like an enclosure from the outside because of the high fences. The driver asks me if I want to get down on the Qasqas side or the Ghobeyri side. I tell him I want to go to the open area of the park. We agree, in the end, that the entrance is next to the athletic courts.

> entering the pArk: SpACeS of interACtion And the CreAtion of exCluSion The rain is pouring down when I arrive at the open gate. Kids are running around, trying to find cover. Their mother signals to them, pointing at the narrow roof of the guards’ white, concrete cabin. I beat them to it. A young girl comes up to me, giggling, and asks me if I am from Dahiyeh.2 I say I am from Ashrafieh.3 She runs off. It becomes apparent to me through her assumption that the regular park visitors come mainly from the


110

INFOGRAPHICS BY FRANCOIS EID 5

horSh moSAiC The Horsh Mosaic maps represent the confessional geographic distribution of communities around the park (based on the 2004 official electoral checklists). (Right) Each square indicates 250 people (Left) Each square indicates 1000 people


127

RANA ANDRAOS

the empty pArk DECIPHERING IDEAS OF PUBLIC SPACE & CITIzENSHIP IN HORSH BEIRUT

This contribution is based on Rana Andraos’s Master of Urban Planning and Policy (MUPP) thesis titled “Neoliberal Planning and the Politics of Public Space: The Case of Martyrs’ Square in Beirut’s Downtown” and presented at the American University of Beirut in 2008.

> introduCtion Public space, both as a historically constructed concept and a component of our physical surroundings, has been at the heart of major academic and not-soacademic debates. The disciplines of geography, sociology, urban studies, and architecture – among others – have all dwelled on the importance of “public space” in its broadest meaning and have praised it as a major component, if not the key component, upon which democratic practices of citizenship unfold. In Lebanon, and especially in Beirut – a politically divided and densely populated city with barely any open space – the meaning of public space gains further importance in that it offers a space where people can dwell, meet, reconcile; in other words, enact their citizenship and belonging to the public spaces of the city. Most public spaces in Beirut were manipulated and corroded in such a way as to disengage the public from accessing them. In this article, I review the major concepts of both public space and


133

COmPILED BY BASSAm CHAYA

the horSh in lebAneSe lAw Translated from Arabic by Fadi Shayya

Horsh Al-Sanawbar has been municipal public property since 1878.1 It is mentioned in the Lebanese Law under Decree 434 (28 March 1942) that classifies and regulates natural sites of the Lebanese Republic according to the Law of 8 July 1939 concerned with the protection of natural sites and scenery in Lebanon. The Law of 8 July 1939 promulgated that an inventory of natural sites and scenery – whose protection and maintenance is a public good whether for the landscape horizon, urban planning, or tourism – be created at the Ministry of Economy. At present, this inventory is under the jurisdiction and specialization of the Ministry of Environment. Paragraph 5 of Article 1 of the Decree 434 states that “Horsh Beirut”2 falls under the Law of 8 July 1939, and Paragraph 5 of Article 2 delineates the limits of Horsh Beirut according to maps attached to the decree. Horsh Beirut is classified as public property as stated in Chapter 1 of the Law of Real Estate Ownership issued upon Resolution 3339 (12 November 1930). Article 6 of the same law states that Amiri 3 (public) real estate is the


139

NOW LEBANON (31 JULY 2007) HANIN GHADDAR

beirut’S publiC SpACe (or lACk thereof)

Institutional involvement in Beirut’s urban planning has, for decades now, been severely lacking. Because even during the post-war era, reconstruction and urbanism have frequently been taken up only by the private sector, many of the city’s public spaces have been left in a state of shameful neglect. While the private sector continues to focus on commercial and residential parts of the city, shifting priorities within the government have paralyzed institutional work on public spaces in Beirut. The citizen, as a result, is the

one who ends up paying the price. Beirutis at large have been left with little more than the sea-side Corniche, a few modest public gardens, and a small open part of the Pine Forest, which is the only large public park in Beirut. And while there are ample government plans to fix all this, the current political deadlock continues to block every effort to implement them. Or, so it seems. Perhaps even calling these few public spaces “public” is a bit of a misnomer too. For one, many of them still fall either East or West, in a Sunni neighborhood or a Shia one—


143

SALmAN ABBAS

if it exiStS, SenSibility iS not enough

STRUGGLE FOR URBAN PARkS IN BEIRUT

> the power of rumorS Claiming the public space of Horsh Al-Sanawbar is a main underlying objective of the current book; however, many readers may wonder: “What about other urban parks in Beirut? Are there any? Are there plans for any?” The prospects do not look good. The Municipality of Beirut (MoB) has not claimed land for urban parkland since 1878, when it claimed ownership to the Pine woods.1 In fact, the Pine woods have been subdivided throughout history, eventually becoming the current park: Lot 1925. Beirut has an average of 0.8 square-meters of green space per capita, whereas “the World Health Organization of the United Nations (WHO) recommends 12 square-meters of green space per capita in urban areas.”2 According to experts in the field, the number 0.8 is an optimistic estimate for Beirut as it incorporates all open places such as private gardens, parking lots, and private empty land lots, many of which may become occupied by high-rise buildings in the near future. The


154 ALBA / Structural Connectivity

Bridging Strategy (Gemayel, 2007)


164 SPNL / Take Only memories Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava)

Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)

Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus xanthopygos)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)

Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)

Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)

Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)


174 Shayya / Inside Out [2]


176

9

9

The poster “Beirut Park” is featured at the end of the book (Khoury, 2009)


CONTRIBUTORS ALICIA DENRIS-YOUNES, BACHAR AL-AMINE, BASSAM CHAYA, BILAL KHBEIZ, DANNY KHOURY, DARINE CHOUEIRI, DGA, FADI SHAYYA, FOUAD ASFOUR, FRANÇOIS EID, GHASSAN MAASRI, GIS/TRANSPORT, GIULIA FIOCCA, GRÉGOIRE SEROF, GUYLAINE RAPHAEL, HALA AL-AMINE, HANIN GHADDAR, HUSSEIN YAAKOUB, IMAD GEMAYEL, JANA NAKHAL, JEAN-FRANÇOIS PIRSON, LAMA SFEIR, LANA SALMAN, LASSE LAU, LINA ABOU RESLAN, MARWAN RECHMAOUI, NADA BAKRI, NADA HABIS-ASSI, NANCY HAMAD, NOW LEBANON, RANA ANDRAOS, ROLA IDRIS, SALMAN ABBAS, SAMAR KANAFANI, SARA ABUGHAZAL, SPNL, SUMAYYAH SAMAHA, TARA MAHFOUD, THE DAILY STAR SINCE THE EARLY 1990S, BEIRUT’S PARK, HORSH AL-SANAWBAR, WAS SEALED OFF FROM THE LIVES OF MANY BEIRUTI RESIDENTS AND VISITORS, WITH NUMEROUS JUSTIFICATIONS FOR THEIR EXCLUSION. AT THE EDGE OF THE CITY ASPIRES TO CHART AN ALTERNATIVE DISCOURSE FROM THAT WHICH PRODUCES THIS EXCLUSION. THROUGH EXPLORING ISSUES OF ADVOCACY AND POLITICS, THE BOOK AIMS TO PROVIDE A PLATFORM TO CONTEST THE EXISTING GOVERNANCE OF HORSH AL-SANAWBAR AND TO BRING FORWARD A WELL-INFORMED PUBLIC SPACE PUBLIC POLICY AGENDA. AT THE EDGE OF THE CITY PRESENTS MULTIDISCIPLINARY, TEXTUAL AND VISUAL CONTRIBUTIONS THAT ATTEMPT TO SHAPE AN UNDERSTANDING OF CONTINUOUSLY EVOLVING MEANINGS OF PUBLIC SPACE IN BEIRUT, OPENING UP THE DISCUSSION AND RAISING QUESTIONS, AND CHALLENGING THE STATUS QUO, AS WELL AS THE SOCIAL IMAGINATION, OF PUBLIC SPACE ITSELF.

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ISBN 978-9953-0-1537-8

At the Edge of the City  

"At the Edge of the City" is a book about Beirut’s park and public space; it is a genuine, non-academic research and advocacy effort to docu...

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