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LEBANON: A STUDY OF POSTWAR TRAUMA AND URBANISM by Karine Sarkissian Maryland Institute College of Art Department of Environmental Design This compilation of information, research, and thoughts is a response to a thesis study. 1


For a city to stay the same, it needs to change. Cities around the world constantly change over time. In effect, most evolve in correspondence with the times, the surroundings, and socioeconomic as well as political situations. The urban morphology of Beirut however, takes on an extra element which dictates the city it has become. The fifteen-year civil war is a prominent element that has made its mark. The amnesiac development of cities, such as Beirut, affected by war and their connections to memory and the urban footprint is the basis of my thesis investigation.





Patterns within a city are based on location and strategy. Additionally, social, environmental, and political conditions all play a vital role in its development and current state.

Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Israel and Syria Area: 10,400 sq km (about 0.7 times the size of Connecticut)



Coastline: 225 km Climate: Mediterranean; mild to cool, wet winters with hot, dry summers; Lebanon mountains experience heavy winter snows Population: 4,140,289 (July 2012 est.) Demographics: Arab 95%, Armenian 4%, other 1%



Several urban plans of Beirut were drawn up by international designers, however many of them were dismissed due to the corrupted form of government in Lebanon.

iraq israel


jordan saudi arabia figure


lebanon and its surrounding

Languages: Arabic (official), French, English, Armenian

1952: 1st official masterplan for the city was adopted. However, the expansion of the city was not taken into consideration. Roads became too narrow for the traffic volume. Each neighborhood eventually began to plan and design their own space.

Government: Republic Capital: Beirut Independence: 22 November 1943 (from League of Nations mandate under French administration) Lebanon was under French Mandate (after WWI, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire). After being granted Independence, the country went through a 15 year civil w a r. Conflict is still quite prominent in the region. Government constitution : President: Christian Maronite Prime Minister: Muslim Sunni

Religions: 17 religious sects recognized 59% Muslim (Shiah and Sunni), 39% Christian (Maronite, Catholic, Orthodox), 2% other (including Druse)

Head of Cabinet: Muslim Shiah Seats within the Cabinet are based on a census conducted after the Independence Economy: Lebanon has a freemarket economy and a strong laissez-faire commercial tradition. H o w e v e r, c o r r u p t i o n is evident in decisions taken.




map of lebanon







beirut, arabic versus french planning

urban development of beirut

h t t p : / / w w w. s t u d i o - b a s e l . c o m / p r o j e c t s / b e i r u t / d a m a s c u s / a t l a s / c i t y - m a p - b e i r u t - a n d - d a m a s c u s . h t m l




h t t p : / / w w w. s t u d i o - b a s e l . c o m / p r o j e c t s / b e i r u t / d a m a s c u s / a t l a s / c i t y - m a p - b e i r u t - a n d - d a m a s c u s . h t m l




Lebanon has been affected by a fifteen-year civil war. Spatial and temporal elements have presented themselves onto the development of the city. The approach and re-adaptation of spaces affected by conflict differ. Officials and designers have opposing opinions on how areas should be rehabilitated. Presented with physical, political, and economic realities of such context, decision makers often opt for the easy erasure of the traces of conflict, while designers often opt for a fetishism of the same traces. Morphologies are identified and recognized through new equivalence between mass, void, and organism. As a result, Identity blurs with memory.




beirut’s structure and the solidere plan

h t t p : / / w w w. s t u d i o - b a s e l . c o m / p r o j e c t s / b e i r u t / d a m a s c u s / a t l a s / c i t y - m a p - b e i r u t - a n d - d a m a s c u s . h t m l



Urban initiative within Beirut; it aims to rebuild the city with the image of the past

civil war

(1975 - 1990) devastating political unrest led to a destructed and divided Beirut.

Some buildings still retain marks of conflict.


impacted by traffic and unplanned, crowded building scape. Buildings are often in bad shape and electric lines run across and over the streets. neighborhood life

mountains religious buildings

include churches and mosques places right next to one another

directly facing the sea have become covered with buildings and construction sites.

martyr’s square

part of the Solidere developments. This statue at the center of this square reminds the Lebanese of their solidarity.

long coastline of 225km mediteranean sea



beirut’s history and identity




There are 3 types of memory that built form embodies. 1. Subjective memory: related to meaning (connect to each individual sense of personal and group identity) 2. tors)


Mixed Demographics

External Control

Collective memory: preceding civilizations (or ances




3. Recorded memory: memory of the knowledge and worldview of those who built and lived.

El Hayy: An existing concept further development by Aysar Arida, a physicist and urbanist in his writi n g Q u a n t u m C i t y.

French Mandate

Investigations and solutions will further entail a maintenance of traumatic form and celebration of war damage - through the concept of ‘hayy’ the typical ‘quartier’ neighborhood life between buildings that once existed.





Independence 1943

Civil War (1975-90)


Before and during the war

Lack of planning


Old Neighborhoods

What used to be there




Cultural Trail (Solidere)

Ras Beirut


Reference points

neighborhood structure/study




If it is impossible for the Lebanese to reach unanimous agreement over what their war was about, nothing prevents them from remembering it in a pluralistic way. Almost no memorials to the conflict can be found anywhere.

Ras Beirut: This neighborhood remains as one of the only secular regions of Beirut. This region has largely benefited from the American University of Beirut, along with many other important institutions in the area. Hamra and Bliss streets maintain a unique identity as important landmark streets in the region.

Artist, Arman, has created one of the only non-territorial memorials in Lebanon--”Hope for Peace.” The sculpture was meant to be placed downtown, however due to the many memories related to the conflict, it was eventually placed in the mountains in Yarze. In effect, much about the ‘memory’ is missing. There is no collection of who passed and no real day of remembrance. How can people build a collective memory of a conflict that was never truly resolved?



urban landscape, buildings

Arman, “Hope for Peace” The statue consists of stacked tanks placed in a concrete covering. What is the true value of this monument? How does it commemorate what happened? There are still many t a n k s a r o u n d t h e c i t y, what about those?



urban landscape, street/nolli map figure


10 : “hope

for peace” by arman

M i c h a e l Yo u n g , T h e D a i l y S t a r


This article, “Out of Beirut’”, was taken from the Modern Art Oxford.



ARTICLE ANALYSIS: Contemporary Art Practises in Post War Lebanon. By Kaelen Wilson Goldie

ARTICLE ANALYSIS: Contemporary Art Practises in Post War Lebanon. By Kaelen Wilson Goldie

There has been continuous difficulty in writing and resolving the history of Lebanon post 1943 (Lebanese Independence). In effect, people still strongly associate to the past--postcards with old images of what used to be, are still being sold. The appropriation of history is what it really comes down to. Seeing as history is usually visualized on the side of the victorious - “history by the winners”--individuals in Lebanon rather approach history in an ‘unofficial way.’ Allowing the subversive space to be governed by the anecdotal (the hidden, what has been kept secret) is the way to approach such a history.

Beirut is overwhelmed with thresholds. This concept is exhibited through East and West; and what was or has become wastelands. In consequence, the city of Beirut was dramatically reconstructed; buildings were torn down, plots redrawn, patterns and areas rezoned. There has been a dramatic altering of the layout of Beirut’s spatial environment. “Images of past and present refuse to conform to a singular notion of place.” There is a repeated failure to match one view with the other; as if these images of past and present refuse to conform to a singular notion of place (let alone a coherent collectively understood historical narrative linking one with the other.

There is a temporal disjuncture between the past and the present. Stories are torn between fact and fiction; between what seems as a straightforward recollection of past events and what clearly is an interpretation of memories performed in the present. “Here and elsewhere; they may be true, or they may not... You see?”

This article, “Out of Beirut’”, was taken from the Modern Art Oxford.

The traumas of the civil war have lead to a failure of nationalism. The art in Lebanon, by local artists, responds to situations through particular media: experimental, performance, and urban interventions. The work is mostly research based, critically engaged with sociopolitical issues related to the representation of identity. Furthermore, the recognition of the work is mostly international rather than local--the local audience remains indifferent to the produced work.


“Out of Beirut” Modern Art, Oxford

“Out of Beirut” Modern Art, Oxford


This article, “Out of Beirut’”, was taken from the Modern Art Oxford.



ARTICLE ANALYSIS: Contemporary Art Practises in Post War Lebanon. By Kaelen Wilson Goldie

ARTICLE ANALYSIS: Heterotopias By Michel Foucault

Lebanon’s perpetual identity crisis is intrinsically tied as much to internal political combustion as is to factors determined by the country’s fixed geopolitical location. Relations with orientations towards the West, the Mediterranean region,

Heterotopia is the concept of embracing the “OTHER”. As Foucault states, “those in which individuals whose behavior is deviant in relation to the required mean or norm are placed” are defined as heterotopias.

Arab states all affect its situation, and are always changing.

The concept which is exhibited in Foucault’s writing takes on the creation of a space of illusion that exposes every ‘real space.’ The physical configuration of heterotopias is the element that matters most. In essence, a boat (a floating piece of space), a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and infinity of the sea is the ideal Heterotopia.

These effects are expressed verbally and visually, through form and content of public discourse and public space. One of the questions that this brings up is about public spaces and the way these spaces are thus utilized. The concept of public space is quite obscure in Lebanon. In effect, all common public spaces such as streets and plazas are always supervised and do not allow impromptu actions to occur. Surveillance for protection and security takes over and people cannot ‘act’ as they please.


“Out of Beirut” Modern Art, Oxford

This article, “Heterotopias” was written by Michel Foucault. It has been taken out from ‘Of Other Spaces’ (1967).



dormant + latent

Trauma and Amnesia of Civil war

Drawn and inspired from “Life’s Like That” by Michael Karam, Peter Grimsditch and Maya Fidawi (illustrations)

anomaly in the region (geopolitical)

images of past and present refuse to conform to singular notion of place

lack of national identity

Right: Taxi (service) driver figure


Bottom left: Shisha (Arguile) smoker on the corniche, by the water figure


Bottom right: civil servant

Beirut’s over-urbanization

spatial + temporal elements

deliberate erasure of memory

old vs. new

east vs. west

regional vs. global

effects: social, political, economic




laissez-faire lack of resolution with the war

No real public space in Lebanon

“container vs. contained” no spaces where unpredictable can happen

remembering of suffering

collective vs. physical

streets surveillance

effect of memory no real memorial in Lebanon


network to relegate the past


irrational form plays counterform

El Hayy consists of a form of Heterotopia. It acts as the ‘other’ to common public spaces. it becomes the space where things can happen





The buildings are built wherever there is space. No planning or zoning codes apply in neighborhoods around Beirut. The streets appear to h a v e s o m e o r d e r, b u t also wind around and are framed by the surrounding buildings.

The Hayy spaces are the ones I will undertake and implement design in. They are the heterotopias that allow the value of public space to exist.


14 :

urban landscape, buildings and streets



hayy and streets

The ‘open’ (brown) and ‘green’ spaces have lost their essence as public space. No real public life exists in those spaces. Waterfronts, walk-ways, gardens are all surveilled and overtaken by authorities and political parties.

The ‘Hayy’ spaces are internal and almost hidden. These spaces appear as semi-private, but are entirely public, and not surveilled. Their intricate shapes allow from interesting and intricate spaces.





buildings, and



nner courtyards




public spaces, green spaces, and hayy are public spaces truly public?




Candy Chang believes in transforming cities through art and design. Cities have emotional connections and relationships to the people that inhabit them. Re-imagining cities and the way they should be. The essence of her work is in making cities more comfortable for people. Moreover, comfort is within the details. Good urban design engages people with their cities, but also with each other. It is important to remember that one is never truly alone. In effect, there is strength of collective wisdom in our lives and the cities we live in. figure


Candy Chang is an Arc h i t e c t , U r b a n D e s i g n e r, and Graphic design. By adapting the various majors she has taken on, she created her own discipline. She creates public interventions that encourage conversation among people within the neighborhood, and throughout various cities.

erasure of memory?

Photocollage of a Hayy Space. It has lost its charm and essence, renovated into a parking lot.






garden, nature overtakes


20: ‘before

i die�

sidewalk psychiatry



career path

These are examples of various projects Chang has set up around cities. They encourage people to contribute and start conversations, as well as ask themselves questions. It becomes a continuous conversation with the city and the surrounding.


The article ‘The Wall, the Screen and the Image, written by Marita Sturken, represents Maya Lin’s approach to the Vietnam Memorial. Resisting certain hegemonies through memorials and architecture that respects the earth’s organic processes and the connections to its surrounding.



Memorials embody forms of remembrance; they underline memory within a culture through mode of public commemoration. In many respects, this remembrance and public commemoration allow for the discourse of history, the development of personal recollection and that of cultural memory. Various forms of monuments and memorials have been created around the world. Moreover, some take form of sculpture, landscaping, or even architecture—they express and embody different types of events to commemorate. The Vietnam Veteran’s memorial by Maya Lin is one, which poignantly stands out— its unusual form and distinct post-modern style commemorate such an event the only way possible. In conjunction, the Lebanese Civil War deserves the same type of memorial—one that is non-territorial, and one, which deals with an ambiguous history that requires an urgency of remembrance. Maya Lin’s Vietnam memorial has brought up many questions in regards to the way, which the Vietnam War was brought to closure in the American society. How can society commemorate a work for which its history and happenings are still in question? How about the fact that it is still contested? There appears to be a lack of singular and historical narratives that define the clear-cut purpose and outcome of the war. In a sense, the Lebanese Civil War could be characterized in the same way. There are no official non-territorial memorials to remember the happenings of a fifteen-year civil war. In effect, the war included many various conflicting sects and a continuous series of events. The justification for the lack of memorial is characterized through the many opposing narratives and unresolved outcomes. Contrarily to the Vietnam memorial, which takes on the elements that are worth remembering, as well as the ideology that one, shall ‘never forget’, Lebanon fails to do so.

A memorial to the Civil War in Lebanon should sanctify future wars by offering a complete narrative with cause and effect intact--the way that is taken on through the Vietnam memorial. Maya Lin’s memorial allows the event and the losses of the soldiers to be mourned. She creates a platform for people to react to the events. The names engraved on the black stone add personality and a reality to the monument, moving further from a simple modernist sculpture. Its site specificity gives it a presence and purpose for where it is installed. It is a literal site-specific piece where it makes use of the land as a material. The V-shaped wall cuts into the earth embodying a descent into a space distant from the ‘street level.’ By forcing the viewer to walk down allows for a procession and a physical act to recognize the past. This memorial is “contemplative rather than declarative.” As expressed by Krauss ‘s ‘Sculpture in the Expanded Field’, this piece goes back and forth between architecture vs. non-architecture; landscape vs. non-landscape; and sculpture vs. non-sculpture. Its undefined form is largely part of its success; it does not characterize or associate itself and thus encourages all forms of connections to the viewers. The symbolism that this memorial draws to the Vietnam War is one that is needed in Lebanon— one that refuses to glorify a war and a past (which is shameful), one that is pacifist, and one that is political and emphatically anti-heroic. “To rush to embrace the memorial as cultural symbol reveals not only the relief of voicing a history that has been taboo, but also a desire to re-inscribe that history” (Sturken). The Vietnam memorial becomes a symbol of remembrance, which is itself a form of erasure. The importance of memorial, and the need for it in areas such as Lebanon are rooted so much further than simple physical representation. Memorials bring out a reality and draw the link to the vague ideology that faintly remains.





Furthermore, as stated by Althusser, ‘ideology’ encourages the connections between the imaginary relationships of individuals to their real conditions of existence. By facing the memorial (thus history), ideology and reality come to term in a person’s mind. In finding such link, one then processes through fields of discourse. Moreover, power according to Foucault, is not only coerced but also produced through discourse. It is through the understanding of the past and its reality that empowerment can occur. To move forward, one must deal with the past, with its reality, through personal as well as collective discourse. “What is most human about man is his history” (Foucault). In conclusion, the resolution of the past and that of history can only be achieved through the discourse of individual or collective commemoration. Without such acceptance and closure, one cannot move forward, and in consequence cannot deal with what once happened. Through the acknowledgement of past occurring, including events as indistinct as the Vietnam War or the Lebanese Civil War (with no positive and no concrete outcome) one can only then begin to cope and respond. The embodiment of the Vietnam War could have only been represented with a memorial such as Lin’s. As a result, Lebanon deserves and is in need of the same type of commemoration. A representation that respects the past without glorification, but rather understanding and reflection of the lives that were lost and the martyrs that are not to be forgotten. Lastly, a memorial that lies in the struggles of narratives allowing us to remember to never forget.


In order to create the ideal ‘Hayy’ spaces, an investigation of the surroundings in essential. Understanding what is and what was there matters, and should not be neglected when created the design for the spaces. The network will not only create internal public spaces that simply conn e c t t o o n e a n o t h e r, b u t also will include an ‘homage’ and consideration of the value of the space.



analysis and personal interpretation of spaces



Protection: Protection against verhicular traffic Protection against crime and violence Protection against unpleasant sensory experiences

Through the thourough investigation of this area (which includes Hamra Street), developments of ‘Hayy’ spaces will cater the surroundings. Subtle designs and public interventions will speak to the areas and become almost site specific (literal or functional).

Comfort: Invitation for walking Visual Contact Audio Verbal Contact





Invitation for stand/staying Day/evening/night activity Varying seasonal activity

Invitations for sitting Play, recreation and interaction

Jan Gehl remains as one of the most important urban planners around the world. His ideal model is not only carried on by his firm by has been adopted around the world in all sorts of public spaces.

Delight Dimensioned at human scale Positive Aspects of climate Aesthetic and sensory selected map from ras beirut





hayy space collage




concept collage



From a single neglected From aspace... single neglected space...To an activated public To anspace... activated public space... To a network of public spaces...of public spaces... To a network

with infinite possibilities... with infinite possibilities...




concept diagram, network of spaces




In continuing such conversations and conceptualizing of ideas, more elements unique to Beirut are worth considering.

Are such political/ religious markers considered propaganda? How can one ignore the screaming messages all these signs, labels, spray painted icons and slogans represent? Public space becomes claimed by such elements. Religious shrines for example create a system of ideas of economical and political theory and policy. Ideas eventually integrate and take over imposing a way of thinking.

-Territorial markers are all over the city. In one respect, many seem to be religious. Larger monumental churches and mosque exist, but in addition, smaller unique shrines to areas are placed all over. Important moments, accidents, and points of collision are marked with a Mary or Joseph statue, or icon of a saint. By marking spaces religiously, does this become a political statement?

Specific visions are broadcast to the people, and where citizens feel the need to belong to a political group. A Lebanese is not simply ‘Lebanese’ anymore, but rather a Christian, Sunni, Shiah, Druze; and even further a ‘Aouni’ (support of Aoun, A Hezbollah supporter... The list becomes infinite. The unity is present in the people’s response to emergency situations and protection from external offenders--and yet, internally, fragmentation overtakes. The traditions, foods, customs are the only linking elements that connect the Lebanese to each other.




type of religious shrines placed around the city





terrain vague on the raouche corniche, unclaimed green space

Terrain vague is a concept that bridges the gap between public ‘claimed’ space and private space. It incorporates the in-between, the inaccessible, the broken down...


Urban semiotics within the city incorporates the idea of human space and signifying space. The way we conceive the city has become very close to the perceiving of consciousness, a growing consciousness is associated to such views of city scape. In effect, we begin to use more and more a vocabulary of signification, incorporating terms such as path, enclosure, districts, intersections, points of reference... Today there are more and more contradictions between signification and phenomena. In turn, there is conflict between the functionalist and semantic content of things where areas like Rome encounter problems between the functional necessities of modern life and that of history. Each city possesses a form of rhythm- there is a break between signification and reality Some neighborhoods look the same on maps which seem realistic and objective, and yet when given the names of the areas, a person’s perception is completely changed, where prejudice and subjectivity play in. City is a discourse, a “language” which speaks to its inhabitants, who in turn speak to it. Language of the city is sensitive to a series of metaphors and expressions.

This article “Semiology and Urbanism” was written by Roland Barthes. Barthes was a French c r i t i c a n d w r i t e r, a n d t h i s article surrounding the value of language and semiology is part of his later post-structuralism period.

How do we shift from metaphor to analysis when speaking of the city?

These spaces have a certain almost undescribably value where the overwhelming curiosity of people is completely forgotten. Essentially these spaces are the opposite of all, they are “un-territorial.” Heterotopias? Characterized as the “Other” remains as a unique element is that is forgotten in Lebanon.





Sensory elements matter tremendously in the design of public space. Triggering one’s senses when entering a space is sensitive and particular to each individual.

Peter Zumthor ’s Kolumba Museum was built in Cologne, Germany after the destructions the city faced during WWII.

Peter Zumthor’s Kolumba Museum, is a unique experience where transitions with the control of light, the perforated facade allows controlled light and sound to come in. One is confronted with an interior space that at the same time is consumed with exterior elements.

The museum houses the old ruins from the destroyed Catholic church at the time. The project emerged from “Inside out and from the place” as said by Z u m t h o r.

Such respect for the surrounding should be incorporated in my design of these public spaces. Playing with creating opposite and contradictory experiences. For example creating a space of silence next to Hamra street, one that is consumed with car honks and scramming people.






sketch of the kolumba museum, room which incorporates exterior

in the interior. church ruins rest below the wooden zigzagging bridge



exterior perforated facade of the building

on the second level, the space changes identity, light becomes the

main element of the space. the large windows frame view points within the city.




Lebanon is a country where a person’s privacy is almost not considered. Everyone is always concerned with what other people think, and privacy is always overlooked as unnecessary. In effect, cars have a very valuable symbolic definition. Each individual owns at least one vehicle. The overwhelming amount of cars has served each person not only as a way to get around, but is also used as a space for privacy. One where someone can just exist alone.

The Berlin Biennial 7 (summer 2012) took on a political agenda. Provoking works from artists throughout the world were purposely speaking to one another and creating works that spoke of their identity. One particularly piece stood out, one to speak for the state of Palestine.

It is not uncommon to see each people sitting alone in their vehicle. It is the one place that is inaccessible from others, where individual thought and reflections can overtake.

Khalil Jaarar created the work “The State of Palestine.” He encouraged people to take action and stamp their passports in recognition of the existence of a ‘non-existing state.’

Are intimate spaces and spaces of solitude necessary?




overwhelming number of taxis in beirut

h t t p : / / w w w. n o w l e b a n o n . c o m / N e w s A r c h i v e D e t a i l s . a s p x ? I D = 2 8 8 8 6


34: “the

state of palestine” by khalil jaarar




Most of the art and installations I create have always taken on social concepts and make an imposing statement on issues I find interest in. During May 2007, Lebanon was faced with chaos and conflict. A ‘so-called’ mini civil war erupted, and people began to fight and demonstrate against each other. The various political implications and arousal of conflict that grew cannot be justified simply, where the culmination of events broke out. Collecting artifacts and recreating visions I saw on the news and around led me to create a multi-media piece. Burning tires, sand bags to block streets, and newspaper clippings...

Empty Lots: Collective Action of Experimental Urban Occupation. This design project was implemented in Belo Horizonte in 2005, where empty lots were explored and chosen by artists and architects to be transformed. These lots in Brazil are actually privately owned and have been transformed into parking lots for profit. The concept of these interventions is to temporarily chance these private spaces to public ones to re-brand and re-indentify the areas. Notions of property, environment, community, ethics and aesthetics are all incorporated. Each area have their own special characteristics which are almost always hidden between wall. “By incorporating these empty lots into daily lives of the population living in proximity, the city is inevitably redesigned.”

This piece shows somewhat of a negative vision, is that really what I should be concerned with? What about the network of those spaces?



coup d’etat by karine sarkissian (detail on the left)

The article is published i n U r b a n Tr a n s f o r m a t i o n , editec by Ilka and Adreas R u b y.

These new implications can change the perception of the neighborhood--behavior change through gardens, meeting spaces, experiments through micro-urban scale. Creating elements such as a :Collective living room”, areas for rest, reading, observing the stars, concerts... This sensation of freedom incorporates new systems for the contemporary city.

figures figures

Empty Lots: Collective Action of Experimental Urban Occupation is an article written by Louise Marie Cardoso Ganz.


empty lot projects

left to right: typographies, movie exhibition,


m2 of grass




In designing the Hayy spaces, certain elements are to be remembered. ‘Moments of pause’ remains as the key driving force, for the antispace, the heterotopias, to come to a clean, green, and other space for relief. Playing with sensory elements as a response to each design, as well as certain terms to take from such as ‘dig’, ‘build’, ‘mark’ ‘elaborate/elevate’, ‘inscribe’, ‘subtract...’ The idea of the underground as a ‘freeing’ action can also be incorporated.

Rather abrupt unplanned and DIY interventions in cities sometimes work well as they do not necessarily oppose laws but rather work around to get points transmitted.

In conjunction, what about programming systems? Incorporating a system of which to respond to for design. Additionally, the project could take form of a ‘kid of part’ one that embraces the reality of spaces, new ground, and multi-level...

“Urban interventions of a sort – quick, often temp o r a r y, c h e a p p r o j e c t s that aim to make a small part of a city more lively or enjoyable. These types of projects have grown in popularity in recent years, and they even have a new name: tactical urbanism, as in tactics used to improve the urban environment. These tactics tend to be replicable across cities, and in certain instances have become worldwide phenomena.”


42, 43

tactical urbanism in cities




melbourne laneways, a perfect example of an implemented system

h t t p : / / b e t t e r b l o c k s p h i l l y. o r g / 2 0 1 2 / 0 4 / 2 9 / t a c t i c a l - u r b a n i s m - s a l o n - p h i l l y / h t t p : / / w w w. t h e a t l a n t i c c i t i e s . c o m / n e i g h b o r h o o d s / 2 0 1 2 / 0 3 / g u i d e - t a c t i c a l - u r b a n i s m / 1 3 8 7 /




I remember the day. Oh how I remember we were walking along Hamra street, my mother holding my hand and my older sister following a couple of steps behind as she was always too busy day dreaming. Wonderful distractions seemed to occupy my mind, distractions from the streets and my imagination together created a world of its own, a Beirut so alive and vibrant. Everyone around me had a story, the shoeshine from the neighborhood, the lines on his face personified the long life he had lived; one full of acquaintances, adventures, and stories; the ka’ak salesman, announcing himself by wheeling his cart around the streets allowing the wonderful smells of his fresh bread to overwhelm our senses… So many people would come on and off the tram to spend the afternoon shopping at Red-shoe, and stop for coffee and stimulating conversations at the Café de Paris. These distinct memories, smells, and sounds have left imprints in my mind that I will never forget.

Today, these spaces are gone. They are neglected as though inexistent. Why is that so? Why have we destroyed all areas we lived in? Our outdoors and public spaces are no more, and we seem to be lost with everything that has happened. Fifteen years and so many more of blur, amnesia has taken over. What worries me most however is that my children, their friends, and the youth of today have never experienced our urban playground, our Beirut. A memory so vivid and bright that it hurts not to see it now, not to transmit it. I long for this legacy to pass on. How can we tell our stories? How can the youth of today understand and see what is no longer there? How can they create their own?

Walking around was always how our afternoons took off, we would get ready to go see my aunt and cousins and play around while our parents gossiped about the neighborhood over coffee (‘rakweh’) and an arguile. My cousin Leila and I would always go downstairs in the Hayy, it was were the life of the neighborhood really took place. A courtyard space came about, created by the buildings that surrounded it. It served as a playing ground where we would run around, tell each other our stories, and get to meet our neighbors. Our parents felt safe with us being there, they could keep an eye on us, and eventually when being indoors became too suffocating, they would join us shortly after. Everything seemed harmonious there. People of all ages, from all around would come together there. There was always something so unique, and we had even made efforts to make the area homier with plants and outdoor furniture for everyone to enjoy. Harmony and togetherness, two words that I long for quickly disappeared with the arrival of an almost endless war.




narrative collage




This is the approach to my investigation, I am curious to revive these spaces. The Hayy, public space, victim of a fifteen-year war (along with the people), has lost its purpose and disappeared. I cannot fully understand what was once there, and cannot begin to understand why it has disappeared as these spaces are still physically there. They have been forgotten and taken over by cars. Beirut’s urban life has disappeared.

Educating the younger generation, my generation of today of what a pre-war Lebanon was like. One that has filled all the memories and images in our parents and grandparents’ minds. It is something that is unreachable as the times have transformed and changed so much. With the notion of what was once, I will try and touch to certain aspects of the past while being most aware of the contemporary, the reality of today. The walking tour, network, and larger connection helps relate this piece back to personal level on a small scale, on a community level for a neighborhood scale, and for a society on a city scale.

However, the character and layers of history can be seen on the imprints of the back façades of the buildings. This presents a challenge for me—one that has led me to an adventure. I want to understand and visualize the stories that I have been told, the prewar amnesia of Beirut. I almost feel as though it is my duty through my curiosity to recreate a journey for my generation to see a side of a ‘pre-war’ Lebanon, one of the 1960s that seemed so incredible and unique. These urban spaces exist all through Beirut, and particularly through Ras Beirut, why not revive the spaces throughout? The revival will take a different form than what it was, as a system will be created. A system either for profit through entertainment (putting life in those spaces/ maybe night life or commercial aspects, parks), or through the recreation a journey that one can venture throughout the Hayy network. A subtle journey may be virtual, abstract, and simple. It needs to exist for the individual on a small scale, the community on a neighborhood scale, and the society on a city scale.




Barthes, Roland. “Semiology and Urbanism.” The Semiotic Challenge. Berkeley: University of California, 1994. N. pag. Print. Candy Chang. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Oct. 2012. <>. Cotter, Suzanne. Out of Beirut. Oxford: Modern Art Oxford, 2006. Print. Foucault, Michel. “Michel Foucault. Of Other Spaces (1967), Heterotopias.” N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2012. <http://www.>. Karam, Michael. Life’s Like That. N.p.: Turning Point Ski Foundation, 2004. Print. Ruby, Ilka, and Andreas Ruby. “Empty Lots: Collective Action of Experimental Urban Occupation.” Urban Transformation. Berlin: Ruby, 2008. 164-69. Print. Sturken, Marita. “The Wall, the Screen, and the Image: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial.” Representations, No. 35, Special Issue: Monumental Histories. Summer 1991: 118-42. Print. Toffel, Ludovic. “Urban Development of Beirut.” ETS Basel, Contemporary City Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2012. <http://www.>.



Thesis 1  

Re-adaptation of public space in Beirut, Lebanon.