In the eyes of the West, Lebanon has a multifaceted image. One day it is an attractive little tourist attraction, with a wonderful climate and beautiful landscape. It is the financial capital of the Arab world, with its discrete banking, as well as being the Paris of the Middle East with its many restaurants and its cultural climate. It is the pearl of the Phoenicians with its many historical sites, and is the friendly melting pot of many cultures and religions. The next day, it is a dangerous time bomb with its sectarian population, an unreliable business partner with its unstable economy, part of the Axis of Evil with extremist forces and groups, a danger to Middle Eastern stability with its hot-headed inhabitants. All its neighbors – including the sea if global warming continues likes this – seem to want keep their grip on the country; they change their point of view according to the socio-economic or political situation in the region. Meanwhile, whilst the whole world projects its views onto it, in Lebanon itself the population is struggling with their own identity. This consists of an amalgam of all the previously mentioned nuances, as well as civil strife (1975-1990) that they haven’t yet come to terms with and a constant fear of renewed attacks from Israel. On the one hand, there is an urgent longing ‘to be left alone’, and on the other hand a desire to be part of global discourse and the global economy. There are as many stories about the Lebanon’s political situation and history as there are people to tell them. In this sense, it is the ultimate modern, fragmented, fractal, fuzzy and trendy society. If a de facto playground for experiencing Jacques Derrida’s theories about deconstruction and differance were to exist anywhere, it would be Lebanon. In fact it could be an ultra modern example of how such fragmentation can be a common ground within a society. Maybe to restore the tourist industry, which collapsed immediately after the July war, Lebanon could introduce a new tourism concept: ALL EXCLUSIVE.
City blogging ‘In the last two weeks Mazen Kerbaj’s drawings have been one of the strongest most vivid expressions of the whole mess that is unfolding in lebanon that i came across’ writes Dutchmen Paul Keller on 5 August 2006 on his blog Meanwhile. Kerbaj, a Beirut-based artist, published since the beginning of the Israeli attack almost every day a drawing on his personal blog named Kerblog. In response to the attack, Keller decided to print Kerbaj drawings on a4 format and hang them in the streets of Amsterdam. He writes: ‘I like the idea of images leaking from my screen into the streets of amsterdam and would probably be even more beautiful if people in other cities started doing the same…’
Drawings by Mazen Kerbaj http://mazenkerblog.blogspot.com/ Posters by Paul Keller www.flickr.com/photos/paulk/sets/ 72157594225008144/ Quotes from www.voyantes.net:81/blog/
Solidere and the perpetual reinvention of downtown Beirut The evident lack of value in most new buildings in metropolitan Beirut and in other cities in Lebanon has promoted interest in that which is not yet built, in the terrain vague at the center of the capital. The void produced is indeed radical and gives rise to both extreme provocation and great promise. At the end of the Civil War in 1990, the government facilitated Rafic Hariri’s vision for rebuilding downtown Beirut by consolidating all property in the center except that with religious immunity and then offering shares in the corporation for its development.1 ‘A law passed in December 1991 gave the municipal administration the authority to create real estate companies in war-damaged areas, and to entrust them with the implementation of the urban plan and the promotion, marketing, and sale of properties to individual or corporate developers… Thus shares will, in effect, replace title deeds of ownership.’2 Multiple ownership was replaced with a single entity but a publicly-owned one, in the sense that it sold stock. This peculiar transference, from private to public property within a corporate framework, is one of the general paradoxes of capitalism, but in Beirut it took on a more emphatic and asset-based character than elsewhere for it pertained to control of the center of a capital city. Solidere (Société libanaise pour le développement et la reconstruction de Beyrouth, French for ‘The Lebanese Company for the Development and Reconstruction of Beirut’) was thus established, but was so integral to the mechanisms that ordained its own establishment that any a priori objective governmental role is ambiguous. When Hariri, the corporation’s leader, was then elected to the nation’s most powerful political position, Prime Minister, this process was augmented and coincided with the demolition of most of the downtown. As many as two thousand buildings disappeared. Some were undamaged and still inhabited. Many could have been saved. Others were truly beyond restoration, especially along the Green Line, the no-mans-land that divided the city during fifteen years of fighting. The extreme action that typified the war thus continued in the development process, both in the destruction of the inner city and in the amalgamation of commerce and administration that oversaw its reconstruction. Extreme land values crossed with changes in commercial demographics, a formula that produced the empty downtowns of American cities where surface parking stretches between high-rises, has similarly effected Beirut which now resembles Houston’s empty core, an expectant void. Likewise the other ‘downtowns’ that cluster at the crossing points of vehicular circulation around Houston are similar to new
satellite cores like Kaslik (formed in the Christian enclave during the Civil War) and others that stretch along the 50 kilometers of coast the metropolis now occupies. Whether due to speed or the incompetence of the collective, Beirut’s downtown was consolidated and homogenized. 250,000 owners were made stockholders in the single entity that replaced them. The cult of efficiency, a familiar pretext for the centralizing forces of capitalism (which must systematically increase revenues each year), met the spatial totalitarianism to which the market aspires: monopoly and state incorporation. Beirut’s problems may stem from the simple fact that almost the entire downtown now has one owner. This may be unique in the capitalist world. While large parts of East Berlin, Warsaw, Stalingrad or Beijing were radically eviscerated and reconstructed as state showplaces, this sort of total urbanism usually remains impossible, even in the most extreme cases of market real-estate. In Beirut, the formula of StateSocialist hyper-tableaux was implemented for antithetical economic reasons to those that made the Stalinist total theater of the Lenin Allees. Yet chaos, embodied in multiple ownership, is what cities are made of. The struggle between desire and fact exerts metropolitan pressure and constitutes a formal mix. The sterility of downtown Beirut stems directly from its ownership practices and the codes established for its reconstruction. It now manifests a bourgeois notion of urban quality, uniformly dainty and over-restored – ‘like a rhinestone encrusted beige poodle clipped too perfectly’3 – no vulgar signage, no mobile vendors as was characteristic of this central quarter before the war and as is typical of other nearby Arab cities such as Damascus or Tripoli. Any reference to the 5000-year history of the city is reduced to archaeology from Phoenician and Roman times or must rest in the religious buildings protected by the waqf restrictions which exempt ecclesiastical structures from any kind of state action. Large areas of prime land throughout the city and nation are thus ‘protected.’ The concept behind waqf is one of universality, that all religious structures are owned by the sum of adherents to the faith they represent. Thus a mosque, cathedral or even a school is the property of millions. This has more than a passing similarity to the ambiguous attitude to property displayed by Solidere as a publiclyowned entity, or in fact to all corporations that offer stock. This particular form of property immunity is one of the few examples of the separation of church and state. Mosques, churches, Druze houses and a synagogue now sit isolated in the enormous vacant lot that is
most of the downtown. This municipal installationpiece emphasizes the hierarchies that determine Lebanese life, both the dominance of religion as a cultural determinant and the hetero-sectarianism that is the nation’s gift – its multi-cultural possibilities – and the nation’s curse – the way that sectarianism has been used to separate and discriminate culminating in the perpetual violence of which the Civil War appeared the last horrendous episode until the war between Hezbollah and Israel and the ensuing political show-down again revived active confessional hostilities. Religion continues to be the prime determining force in how Lebanese zone their cities. The construction of a new, enormous mosque on Martyr’s Square has been the most extravagant architectural gesture so far. The mosque’s construction was taken over directly by Hariri. With an imposing dome and four minarets it defies the modest typologies of historic Lebanese religious structures and, along with another huge mosque in Hariri’s home town of Saida, introduces an imperial scale to this sort of architecture which conflates religion and regime. The Beirut building recalls Sinan and the great mosques of Istanbul; in Saida it is the Mamluk heritage of Cairo that is referred to. The Beirut mosque also sits next to, and overshadows, the Maronite Catholic cathedral. Since his death and unusual entombment along with his bodyguards in the plaza next to the building and adjacent to Martyr’s Square,4 this has become the site of the continuing protests and mourning that have altered the Lebanese political fabric. Vast crowds now fill the voids created by the evisceration of the downtown after the Civil War. Martyr’s Square, a long rectangular plaza reminiscent of Rome’s Piazza Navona in proportion and significance and one of the most important civic spaces and circulation nodes in pre-war Beirut, lost its defining edge of buildings and is part of an this huge empty zone of epic proportions in which one million citizens were able to gather for a decisive independence rally in March 2005. It appears that then 25% of the entire population of the nation descended on this site. This process of expensive but vacant real estate being replaced by the masses began with the millennium when Solidere, realizing that the vision of an exclusive up-scale shopping and social quarter was not taking off, encouraged more popular businesses to temporarily occupy unrented stores. A heterogeneous crowd was invited into a downtown transformed into a vibrant souk. Festival replaced more conventional notions of commerce and has continued at both pro-Western and pro-Iranian/Syrian events. Most office space remains empty but shops and restaurants, often of the upscale sort originally envisioned for the area, have subsequently moved in and at least the ground floors of buildings are active. A cross-section of Beirut society, some merely spectators prohibited by economics from actually participating in retail activity, some the imagined haute-bourgeoisie that the area was originally intended to host, is augmented by a blend of (mostly Arab) visitors and tourists who flooded Lebanon physically and revitalized it
economically before being intimidated by the recent war and subsequent conflicts. Event has replaced conventional urban ensemble in the city center. Now energy is multiplied exponentially by the demonstrations and apparatus that accompany the political crises set off by the murder of Solidere’s founder. That the current revolutionary political events were triggered by the death of the region’s greatest real estate tycoon is not merely a coincidence. The melding of property development with the most intrinsic civic structures is a component of late-capitalism but in Lebanon it has become an overriding issue. His loss is then a civic sacrifice whose legacy has both reified and transcended the fascinating folly that is the empty heart of Beirut.
1. Shares were first offered to owners of property in the area, then to the government, then to the public and finally to interested Arab neighbors. $650 million was thus raised. 2. Assam Salem, ‘The Role of Government in Shaping the Built Environment’, in: Peter Rowe and Harkim Sarkis (eds.), Projecting Beirut. Episodes in the Construction and Reconstruction of a Modern City. München (Prestel) 1998, p. 131. 3. From Michael Stanton, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Urbanism and Intention’, in: Archis #4, 2003. 4. Muslim burial is customarily prescribed for very specific sites and this public spot, opposite the door of the mosque, is not one of those spots. Unlike the Christian habit of erecting tombs and monuments, Islam, with its disdain of the cult of immortal personality and physical representation, is loath to commemorate in such an explicit manner. Exceptions are made for especially heroic or holy figures such as the tomb of Salah’din at the entrance of the Umayyad mosque in Damascus. Hariri’s grave appears to be one of the first of such exceptions made in Lebanon and it places him within a very exalted pantheon. Given that he is interred in Martyr’s Square in front of the mosque that was to form his religious center-piece for Beirut and that he has posthumously become such a talisman for change, this very quick decision should have been more gravely deliberated.
Photo: Ankje Dekker
Manic Machines November 16, 2006, morning The bartender and the delivery man
It was ten o’clock in the morning and we were having our first coffee in one of the trendy bars in Gemmayzeh, a Christian neighborhood1 east of the infamous city center and the political playground of Martyr Square.2 It was a small, rundown hole-in-the-wall, equipped with an expensive Italian espresso machine, a state-of-the art toaster and a lot of booze. The bar is supposed to attract the more alternative and intellectual crowds. But they weren’t present that morning. We were the only clientele and while the city was slowly unfolding outside, my companions started discussing the proceedings of the day; I allowed myself a few more moments of dreamy mindwandering. The latte was heart-warming and I felt myself slowly waking up. We had arrived the day before from Amsterdam and I was slowly coming to grips with my new surroundings; it was good to be back in Beirut. We had come as architects, designers, writers and social scientists. Our ambition was to explore the spatial and social ramifications of the 2007 summer war between Israel and Hezbollah. In cooperation with local colleagues we organized a three-day seminar, during which we would visit, contemplate and discuss the constant and violent destruction and the probably equally violent reconstruction of the country’s urban and suburban fabric. It was a hugely inspiring project, but the dangers of succumbing to the temptations of the spectacle were very real. These were challenges to be dealt with later. For the moment I was still escaping the realities of the day while observing our bartender as he interacted with a delivery man. Our host was a good-looking guy and an excellent operator of the espresso machine. After he had served us our cappuccinos, macchiatos and lattes, our host returned to his Economist to review their thoughts on the thumping of America’s Republican party in the mid-term elections. He had addressed us in German3 and it occurred to me that if you somehow could have transported this bar, its host and its everyday clientele to Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin, everyone would probably celebrate the new outlet as another example of the neighborhood’s coolness. The bar, our host: it all felt urban and European and one could easily forget that one was drinking coffee in a Middle Eastern city that, only months ago, had been the target of severe Israeli air strikes. The delivery man couldn’t have been more different. It is hard to describe the difference and why his appearance felt so out of place without stereotyping his features. But because I feel that my stereotyping is the whole point, I will do it anyway and will probably even exaggerate a little. He was a small guy, with a sun-worn face featuring a mustache, and he was dressed in old, outdated clothes. His age was difficult to determine and he struck me as someone from a rural background. I imagined him to be a Syrian laborer or someone from the Shiite, southern
parts of the city. I do not know if my stereotyping of this man’s appearance is anywhere near the truth, I am relating this because I had the distinct feeling my host was thinking along the same lines as I. Although the bartender and the delivery man seemed to be polite to each other, their communication also seemed to be limited to the essentials, as if the two men shared the same city but lived in different worlds that were not supposed to intermix. Still wandering about the notions, conventions and other social forces that separated these men, I had to give up my musings on the meaning or consequences of what I had just witnessed and was forced to participate in our early meeting. Apparently, my theorizing about local bar scenes wasn’t speeding things up. November 16, later that day No memories of Haret Hreik
The scale of the destruction was massive, intimidating. It was three o’clock in the afternoon and we were looking into the void of what had once been a large apartment block in Haret Hreik, a southern suburb of Beirut. The space that used to be the basement was scattered with clothes, broken furniture and lost household goods. Most of the stuff was mixed with chunks of reinforced concrete, but some of it was new; the hole seemed to have found a new and temporary use as a litter dump. Destruction was omnipresent but the overall feeling was that the neighborhood was coming to terms with the situation. Most of the immediate wreckage had been cleared away and the acute feeling of emergency had already succumbed to a diligent effort at reconstruction. Bulldozers were cleaning up the last debris and the streets were open for traffic. Electricians were up in poles, repairing phone lines and power cables, construction workers were busy fixing or demolishing apartment blocks, depending on the amount of damage they had sustained inflicted, and many shopkeepers were improvising to keep their business up and running. People were repairing their apartments and their shops as well as they could; street life seemed determined to return to its normal pace. The resilience and endurance of this suburban community was remarkable. Haret Hreik was only a ten-minute drive from Gemayzeh, but the difference was striking. The neighborhood was a crowded concrete jungle of mostly unfinished residential blocks, and although the bombardments had violently reduced it to a more open and spacious place, the overall atmosphere was that of a tough, introvert and static community. I was told that many of the residential blocks were occupied by members of the same clan or extended family. The make-up of the neighborhood was the result of an ad hoc building frenzy in the eighties, which had been intended to accommodate the massive flow of refugees trying to escape the civil hostilities in
the south. The refugees were mainly Shiite, from a rural background, and unfamiliar with the urban and cosmopolitan dynamics of uptown Beirut. Haret Hreik was a Hezbollah-controlled neighborhood, so before entering one had to ask permission at a local Hezbollah visitor center, a large tent erected on the edge of one of the destruction sites. The tent was surrounded by strange propaganda installations made of debris, broken American consumer goods and rubble of all kinds painted red – seemingly blood-stained – and decorated with Lebanese flags. Inside the center was an exhibition of newspaper cartoons depicting thoughts and comments about the war, and while we were waiting for permission we were given a DVD with more Hezbollah propaganda. Hezbollah’s sideshow was not intended to win my sympathy but to claim the destruction, the struggle, the death and the endurance in Haret Hreik and incorporate this episode into the movement’s collective identity. The visitor center didn’t facilitate remembrance, but claimed exclusive Hezbollah ownership, and although it was very amateurishly organized it did make us all feel we were trespassing on somebody else’s turf. Most of the people in our group, including the many Lebanese, were visiting the neighborhood for the first time. Slightly detached from the surrounding catastrophe, it became clear to us that we had no memories of Haret Hreik and that this was used against us. We weren’t allowed to talk to anyone, and filming and photographing were restricted on our ‘guided’ tour. The streets and corners of Haret Hreik and anyone who dwelled upon them did not belong to the public domain; they belonged to the exclusive realm of politics. All that was left to us was the dubious attraction of the spectacle. November 16, evening
Boundaries of compassion
We were standing at the seashore, south of Beirut. Around us the cleared wreckage of Haret Hreik. Massive amounts of piled-up debris had been moved to this seaside dump, where big machines were plowing and working the urban leftovers. An impressive sight. Staring at the artificial mountains, I asked one of the Lebanese ALBA students4 who accompanied our excursion what his thoughts were on our afternoon trip to Haret Hreik. Surrounded by tons of lost memorabilia, he admitted that he felt out of place. Although he had lived in Beirut for a large part of his life, it was the first time that he had visited the Shiite neighborhood and, like me, he felt like an intruder. Fadi came from an urban, upper-class Sunni background and had been educated in Frenchspeaking institutions. He lived with his parents on one of the hills to the north of Haret Hreik. From their home they had a first-class view of the bombardments that razed the neighborhood. A shocking experience, and unlike many Sunni and Christian Lebanese, who regarded the war as a war between Hezbollah and Israel, in which the rest of Lebanon was just collateral damage, he experienced the war as a direct assault on
his own community. The trip to Haret Hreik, however, made him reconsider his opinions. Fadi felt like an outsider in the neighborhood and a stranger amidst the Shiite population. Fadi’s appearance differed greatly from the inhabitants of Haret Hreik. He was an urban, cosmopolitan young man amidst people from a rural and traditional background. He was aware of an emotional distance to the destruction and felt very uncomfortable with Hezbollah’s scrutiny. The whole experience made him wonder to what extent Hezbollah had truly represented him during their war with Israel. Listening to Fadi’s account, I wondered why the proximity of the destruction alone wasn’t enough to breach the gap between him and the inhabitants of Haret Hreik. In fact it was the other way around. He felt close to the people in Haret Hreik when he watched from a distance while Israeli planes destroyed the neighborhood, and he felt detached when confronted with these people up close and in person. It was clear that they didn’t share the same appearances, values, traditions and urban make-up, but how could that overpower basic human compassion in the face of tragedy? It seems that there are strong limits to one’s compassion, empathy or even conscience towards others, limits that can even resist the normal intimacy of physical closeness. We came very close, but the strong political ideas and pretensions surrounding Haret Hreik nevertheless kept us at bay. November 17, morning The manic machine of political representation
We were taking a trip, traveling by car from Beirut to the town of Bint Jbeil, in the south of the country, close to the Israeli border. We had just passed the southern outskirts of the capital and outside the car windows big roadside political billboards celebrated Hezbollah’s victory in the summer war and commemorated those who had died. As I read these political messages, it occurred to me that Hezbollah not only claimed the physical scars of the fighting, like the ruins in Haret Hreik, but also, and maybe even more so, the emotional ones. Without shame, the billboards instructed people how to remember those who had been killed during to war. They were to surpass the actual lives of the victims and their accomplishments, and to remember these victims in a framework of conflict, resilience and revenge. Their death had become just another instrument in the arsenal of Hezbollah’s political propaganda, and I wondered if there was any tolerance at all for mourning and remembrance in Lebanese public discourse. The Lebanese are divided by many political, religious and cultural differences, but the one thing they all have in common is their acquaintance with loss and grief. The violence of the civil war did not discriminate. If there is anything each Lebanese person and family can relate to, it is probably the need for mourning and remembrance. That being said, our experiences in Haret Hreik made it clear that it was not easy to recognize one’s self in the misfortunes of the others. Remembrance
and mourning are powerful social notions that can be translated into collective and inclusive social conventions that deal with difficult periods in a nation’s history. It is obvious that the functioning of accepted social institutions which could act as collective podia for remembrance or even sorrow is dependent on strong political sponsorship. In Lebanon’s political universe nobody seems to gain from downplaying political rivalry. Especially among the Shiite community, losses and human tragedies seem to be embedded in the concept of martyrdom. This is an exclusive notion, which denies any personal feelings of loss and grief surrounding a tragic event, and immediately incorporates the incident in a discourse of conflict, endurance and retaliation. The need for mourning, remembrance and reflection is denied by these manic machines of political representation. Everything in Haret Hreik was labeled with a political narrative that made the losses exclusive for anyone who did not agree with the political message. How could we have not felt awkward looking for engagement in the untouchable reality of Haret Hreik? November 18, morning Intimate confrontations in Bint Jbeil
I had never seen anything like the war damage that had reduced the small border town of Bint Jbeil into the post-apocalyptic landscape it is today. Bint Jbeil had the immense bad luck to become the stronghold the Hezbollah fighters needed to check the Israeli army in its advance into Lebanon. Three-quarters of the town had been reduced to rubble, and aside from some ad hoc repairs nothing had been done to rebuild the village. Destroyed cars, broken furniture and other personal items were scattered among the wrecked houses. Walking through this bizarre and other-worldy landscape was deeply moving, humbling. An inescapable exposé of human failure. While walking through the destruction I was invited inside by an elderly man who was busy salvaging that which still had any value, emotional or otherwise. He had returned from Beirut, where he and his mother had fled when the war started. The largest part of his house was still intact. He was fortunate. On the walls of his living room were pictures of his sons, who were physicians living in Boston, USA. Both of them had married American girls, which seemed to make him especially proud. He showed me the part of the house which had not survived the onslaught. His mother’s bedroom, including her bed, had been cut neatly in half. Beyond the surviving half of the bedroom began a wasteland in which all houses were reduced to a big pile of stones. Walking out of his mother’s bedroom into the wasteland I found myself on the leftovers of someone else’s house. Someone less fortunate. The man on top of whose house I was standing was around, and he came over to say hello. He was in his early thirties and had lost not only his house, but also his daughter and mother during the fighting. His daughter was three years
old. When he started telling us about his ordeal he broke down. He was a broken man. Nothing left but grief and his memories. He broke down. We broke down. All it took to bare witness to this tragedy was an intimate encounter we would never forget. Hezbollah’s public relations scheme had attempted to withhold from ‘outsiders’ the evidence that something truly disastrous had taken place. Most people in the south fled the area during the summer war. We were told that directly after hostilities had ceased, those who had fled tried to return to their villages. The ceasefire was only a couple of hours old when the Israeli soldiers who held positions in the houses and gardens around Bint Jbeil were confronted with residents coming back to check up on their belongings. Families entering their houses, Israeli boys sitting there… Intimate confrontations, in which the young soldiers as well as returning families were forced to meet, to negotiate and hence to recognize the other. ‘When do you think we can start restoring and cleaning up our house?’ ‘I hope tomorrow, we have orders to stay here until tomorrow.’ ‘Could we start today?’ ‘Eh… I don’t know. Maybe we should ask my commander?’ ‘Could we?’
1. It is always a dubious exercise to interpret or categorize dynamic urban areas; maybe the best way to refer to the assumed Christian character of Gemayzeh, is that the neighborhood is known as such. 2. The city center was almost completely destroyed during the Lebanese civil war. After the war ended, the city center became the private property of Solidaire, a real estate company with close connections to the Hariri family, in order to facilitate rapid reconstruction. This unique and controversial publicprivate construction has created an empty, exclusive and tasteless neighborhood which was built as a physical simulacrum of past glory; a tomb. 3. A language he had picked up while studying in Berlin. 4. ALBA: Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts (Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts).
Public Space Invaders
A report of an awareness action in Lebanese
public domain Joost Janmaat
Beirut is an exclusive city. Driving around Solidere, downtown Beirut, in your air conditioned SUV, window shopping from behind your darkly tinted car windows, from behind your expensive sun glasses, you might feel rather special. Not too many people get the chance to drive around the carefully reconstructed streets of Solidere, or shop its many exclusive boutiques. Then again, if you happen to live in the Beirut suburbs down south, you might feel equally special; there you can enjoy Israel’s relentless bombing campaigns on the almost exclusively targeted Haret Hreik, the mostly illegal sprawl of high-rise settlements home to Lebanon’s large Shi’a community. And again, if you happen to run a kiosk in the middle of Sassine Square, the hill top cross-roads in eastern Beirut, you will also experience exclusivity; especially since the Pierre Gemayel assassination, the area is once again the heart land of the red-crossed Phalangist Party. Solidere, Haret Hreik, Sassine – they are all very much exclusive places. Exclusive on the basis of class and identity politics. And exclusivity extends far beyond merely the physical space of the city, beyond the realm of enforced concrete and asphalt. In Lebanon, almost everything has an exclusive nature: politics is organized along strict sectarian divides; primary, secondary and advanced education is perfectly possible in well-defined and segregated confines; even memory and history are exclusive. Together with the people we had met during the Beirut Unbuilt event, we set out to challenge this exclusivity and reclaim the streets and squares around the city. Armed with a bag of spray paint cans and a stencil sign reading ‘PUBLIC SPACE’ in Beirut’s three leading languages, we went out the night after the funeral of Pierre Gemayel. In Dahiye, we didn’t dare venture out. At Sassine, we were welcomed by the middle-aged lady running the kiosk in the square, but then sent away by an old man who was sure we were sent by the rival Christian faction. Hamra and Gemmayzeh were easily reclaimed though. And the pièce de résistance, our addition to the Martyr’s Square statue, was put there after a short talk with the police guarding this most public – yet recently claimed by Gemayel’s supporters with banners and flags – of Beirut’s places. The police, who had gathered in the streets of Beirut in massive numbers, must have perceived ‘public space’ as something rather hostile. In some weird – but logical – way, on that night, the soldiers guarding the public areas and the vandals engaged in reclaiming places for public use were somehow both protecting the same thing: an open society, inclusive of everyone, exclusive to no-one. The stencil, made from a piece of card board that was left over after Gemayel’s funeral demonstration, will be re-used over the next few weeks in various demonstrations and sit-in performances in Beirut.
Mixed reactions dear joost, ‘In Dahiye, we didn’t dare venture out’ this indicates the boundary that is created by default within you and your lebanese friends… reestablishing the concept of a territorial place that cannot be entered easily..you cannot impose your thoughts on them or even share them… which is a pity…and i am not sure whether this boundary has a physical evidence…but i know that you should have tried to go to dahiye and spray the word ‘public space’ … for me it would have added a deeper meaning to the experience….you called yourself space invader…you should have invaded dahiye and broke the illusion of such territory :) Comment by sally khanafer 12.16.06 @ 11:01 pm
dear all, whether we like it or not, boundaries exist. i will not debate if it’s a good or bad thing…the facts are still there. and its true that the people in dahieh make you feel this way (at least the politically involved ones). i even used the term ‘the people there’ … which i will not change after i realized that i wrote it. It seems in lebanon there are a lot of ‘the people there’ … mostly out of prejudices, but some are also true and maintained by people who benefit from the situation. maybe spraying the walls is completely useless, childish…maybe we should paint the dahieh walls …and maybe what joost and his friends did will have a huge effect…but everything starts in small steps, and acts like these are born in the moment and judged upon that moment… i know at least a couple of people who liked the idea and thought differently after seeing it. and reaching a couple of people, at least to me, is a huge start. Comment by jo 12.20.06 @ 10:38 am
dear joost, i believe that the experience itself of spraying these harmless words is far more interesting than the result it might have. living in beirut, i came across reading one of your signs on the street and was really affected by it, as it was a manifestation led by another motive than the political. for me, the words sprayed are meaningless, it is more about the story behind how you sprayed it in the different parts of the city, and how you were received by the different inhabitants. your failure in dahyeh says a lot about the paranoia in beirut and the aggressive attachment of each group to his space. i am an architecture student from beirut who is searching for ways of reclaiming our place in the city detached from our political backgrounds, and your experience is the best example of that. thanks! Comment by rayan 01.18.07 @ 3:20 pm The Invaders are Aukje, Steve, Pascale, Rima, Chris, Cara, Layal, Gressy and Joost.
Public Space Invaders at the Martyr Square statue, Beirut.
Photos: Rima Maroun
Design with war in mind! www.archis.org/unbuilt/ Tuesday December 12th 2006, 7:58 pm posted by Edwin Gardner Filed under: Lebanon, discussion Not everybody agrees on the effectiveness of projects and proposals shown on this blog. This blog is an open platform, so it’s is responsible for voicing also other and countering ideas and opinions. Here is a comment by Walid on the Unbuilt project: To The Unbuilt Project/Volume/Archis
I am saddened (and not surprised) by the level of discussion in this blog. Complacency and crap for the most, to put it mildly. You need to think in new terms, and take new chances. There is no prospect of peace before dismantling the ‘zionist’ashkenazi occupation of all Arab territories completely, and undoing all its harm (includes paying indemnities for a century of war crimes, rape, theft, usurpation, propaganda, etc.). So, design with war in mind! Think of (and resolve where applicable) human needs; measures to consolidate the resistance and minimize losses of those fighting for their rights, justice and freedom, and advance their causes; the state of current and future technology and armament; the art of war; etc… Enough shooting in the dark. Hit to the right point.
Here is our point: We design with peace in our mind. With people who are willing to see through the differences for the common purpose: peace! Comment by Nienke Nauta 12.15.06 @ 1:15 pm
Dear Edwin, Thank you for taking my message into consideration. On the contrary, what I am calling for is a more engaged and responsible position, stronger design proposals (that produce better urbanity, better architecture and better citizens, and, yes, do take security measures into concern (in a futile attempt to counteract ever more sophisticated armament technology): less density for example; stronger, more spread and networked shelters; more safe materials (in case of explosions for instance); more distributed infrastructures; not to mention, of course, fighting and leading the war on all other levels, i.e. economic, culture, media, etc..). It is our duty to set forth and facilitate the development of our communities in a time of rapid change. Nienke, Peace be unto you and good luck. Comment by Walid 12.15.06 @ 4:03 pm
Leave a comment Dear Walid, Of course you have a point. Everything we do as designers or architects won’t stop wars from happening. But what to do then…, design fortress or gated communities, dividing every political faction into its own enclave? What design solution would have enough power to survive the maelstrom of political tensions and divisions in Lebanon? Or give us an idea what would be the concrete consequence is of designing with ‘war in mind’ … Besides, should designers just wait and do nothing until the problem of the so-called ‘zionist-askenazi occupation’ is resolved? One of the main problems – which turned out during the RSVP event – is that every design direction can be explained in political terms. If you take this into account as designer, and try to avoid these polarities, you are paralyzed; cause every design gesture will be explained along political/ethnical/tribal fault lines … so the practical realistic designer can do nothing in the end if he in good faith wants to consider all parties into his design proposal. One of the answers is naivety. Instead of considering every political effect of a design decision, deploy the power of architectural naivety and utopia to bring perspective, naive alternatives … Instead of falling in the trap of the omnipresent cul-de-sac political discourse. So we are – among others – aiming at this point what point do you want to hit with which weaponry? Comment by edwingardner 12.14.06 @ 2:42 am
Dear Edwin… first… can you please tell me how to post a thread here on unbuilt?? Technical thing… thanks a lot. I am pretty disturbed by the posts put here as you implied all are proposing designs with war in mind… and really the public space invaders are so off the course. Designing public spaces or solutions or anything you think first of the people and their surroundings not war not hating… we have to get back to the essence of urban design and architecture… all proposals regarding mobile architecture and public invaders are temporary ideas not long time solutions we need long time solutions not something that can affect people for a day or two.. to change the course of ideas and to affect people we need to work on reviving these areas connecting them through architecture not just doing some zooming on the problems. Comment by aline 01.01.07 @ 10:31 am
‘We have to get back to the essence of urban design and architecture…‘ – man you are old school – I agree that ‘public invaders’ and the like are temporary solutions, but what the hell is the essence of urban design? The essence of architecture? How can that sort of idealistic, phenomenological, top down approach contribute to a war-torn urban fabric? Myself, and hopefully others, would appreciate specific explanation – otherwise your words are like that of most politicians, full of hakeh ferigh Comment by ryan matta b 01.24.07 @ 5:46 am
Helpfully, good idea, thanks. Comment by carribean 03.09.07 @ 11:22 pm
6 Comments so far
The Architect’s Dilemma www.archis.org/unbuilt/ Thursday December 14th 2006, 8:32 pm posted by Edwin Gardner Filed under: Beirut, architecture The text on the wall says: You can not aspire to it … You can only be an instrument of it … The only relationship that architects can have with CHAOS is to take their rightful places in the army of those committed to prevent it .. and fail. And it is only in failure, by accident that chaos happen. B. Mau This text for me is a response to some irritation of some to the apparent naivety of some of the projects presented. But what are architects, designers to do when chaos, destruction, conflict and war seem inevitable? I have taken this picture in the Gemmayzeh house in Beirut. The chalked lines on the wall are like those of a prisoner counting the days of imprisonment. Here it seems to be the imprisonment of war, where the creative mind, eager to solve problems, even those that seem irresolvable, is paralyzed by this dilemma.
1 Comment so far
Leave a comment The picture say it all. Big ideas don’t mean big projects. Naivety can be an answer in this particular time in Lebanon. Since what’s happening now is un-normal, thinking in the traditional way will probably not serve us.(political, economic…) Besides, there is a lot of people dedicated and payed to do so. We’ve been taking things so seriously (as perception of things) for a long time and it lead to nothing. We still have the same issues we had decades ago. Trying to do what we always did will lead to having what we always had. The ideas are a suggestion to think differently. And even if they don’t work, failure is also a result. So instead of irritation, participation is needed. Comment by jo 12.20.06 @ 10:52 am
Check out: www.archis.org/unbuilt
Photo: Aukje Dekker
Photo: Aukje Dekker
Photos: Aukje Dekker
Pearls for Lebanon In November 2006, three months after the Summer War between Hezbollah and Israel, a small, international group of architects and urban designers visited Lebanon. Their goals were to assess damage, meet colleagues, examine the opportunities for new dialogue, and brainstorm about the possibilities of reconstructing destroyed cities and their public domains – despite the seemingly unchallengeable animosities and political deadlocks that have been part of Lebanese life for decades. Of course, we read about the ruptures in social life, the aggression that may easily emerge even in regular disputes, and the superposition of different worldviews within this one small country. But we also were intrigued by reports of a new mutual understanding among the Lebanese people, an integration seemingly prompted by the sheer aggression of an outside invader; a kind of ‘United We Stand’ atmosphere, which social theorists call ‘negative integration’, and which can be much stronger than any attempt at dialogue within a group or population. But then we were standing there, on the sidewalk some 20 kilometers south of Beirut, facing hundreds of thousands of tons of rubble and debris caused by the massive bombings by the Israeli. Here we were with a group of Christian and secular Lebanese architects and students, who clearly didn’t consider this mass destruction as part of their own plight. Within minutes it was crystal clear that national feelings were much weaker than loyalties to class, religion or sect. The tragic fact emerged that, although we kept talking about what was going on in Lebanon as if it were happening in a single country, the truth of the matter was that it was happening in an area with multiple – and very different – communities, which only shared a common name and territory thanks to historical coincidence. I tried to consider what it would mean to experience a massive attack on Dutch soil, with endless destruction, yet with people reacting as if it was not their war, but other people’s war. In such a scenario, bombed bridges would cause no outrage but only be regarded as a nuisance, similar to other nuisances like the death of fellow civilians and huge economic losses. My imagination failed me. This profound lack of communication, comprehension, dialogue and engagement hasn’t stopped bothering me since. To avoid the consumption of other peoples’ predicament as merely an unbearable lightness of being and just going home, we tried to set up a conversation with designers, politicians, philosophers and architects, in order to start thinking about projects that would: a) break through the traditional boundaries of the prevailing group think and, b) reclaim common ground and public domain right across existing cultural divisions. The results are about to be materialized in a series of upcoming projects, as described on the following pages.
VISU AL S :
CR ED IT S:
MY LEBANON, YOUR LEBANON...
PHOTOGRAPHY FREDERIC LEZMI
Mobile gardens / Voice-Over Beirut
For public spaces in Lebanon
INTERNATIONAL IDEAS COMPETITION
By Ole Moystad from HP Landskap
A BOATLINE FOR LEBANON
In South Lebanon
PEARL FOUNDATION PROJECTS
Lebanon from a local point of view
LOGEMENT CHEZ L’HABITANT
public space hits the road
tired of thinking big? think tank
a fixed common space with mobile events
what’s all this noise about?
an introduction to the Lebanese melting pot
18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23.
3. 5. 7. 11. 13.
We hope Pearls for Lebanon will be a step that adds a little bit of hot water to the melting pot.
What we are asking for is not only your financial help, but also mental and emotional support for our projects in order to benefit from your expertise; this is why you will find proposals but also questions in our presentation.
In November 2006, several Dutch foundations took the initiative to visit Lebanon. Together with a group of local partners, we visited war zones in Lebanon in what seemed to be routine war tourism. The turning point that made this event different from any other war tourism was the debate held on the last days proposing several ideas on what to do next. What can be the role and function of public space in the reconstruction of Lebanon. The brain storming continued on the Beirut Unbuilt blog and led to several concepts.The projects are an attempt to raise and talk about these issues. It’s a way to wake up the local mental immigrants and give them a platform where they can express their ideas and thoughts.These are common spaces where different people will hopefully find something of interest to them and interact with “the other”. These spaces will try to promote that difference is enriching, and conflict doesn’t have to lead to physical violence… They are not a third choice, but a platform from which multiple choices can be made by different actors.This concept includes spaces that you will have to visit, and spaces that will come to you wherever you are… All these projects fall under the same umbrella of getting together to encourage dialogue, forming a sort of common space, a common ground even. They differ from each other in the way they address you and the media they use, to try to affect the maximum number of people and the most diverse public.There are already many contributors to these projects, a list which includes Archis (Volume), Partizan Publik, Pearl Foundation, Ymere, DIGH, and the Prince Claus Fund from the Netherlands, and local partners who form the Beirut Team, all aiming at widening this network and including more contributions, acting as a think tank.These activities that we present are also a way to encourage foreigners to visit Lebanon and create an emotional link with this small but very inviting country which will hopefully make it impossible to bomb ever again. And we assure you, you will want to stay there, as passionately as many Lebanese want to leave.
Yet again, Lebanon is at a convergence point. The situation is blocked between two political sides with contradictory visions of the country, leaving little space for a third choice to evolve. But it is exactly in times like these that people should have access to alternatives.Cross road after cross road he realized that the need for action dealing with social issues is bigger even if it means rescheduling our priorities in our projects.
After the July war, all of Lebanon’s friends rallied up in a humanitarian and economical effort. Since the level of despair and destruction was high, all organizations worked on a large scale, not always without a political price.With the big budget projects that were initiated, it was easy to overlook the details. Beirut, as a cultural city, suffered yet another setback.
All these factors have resulted in a massive immigration (the number of Lebanese abroad is approximately double that of Lebanese residents).This Diaspora has two faces: the physical immigration which is draining Lebanon from its intellectual and productive force, and the mental immigration, which is making Lebanese residents helpless and indifferent to their country’s situation.
PHOTOGRAPHY FREDERIC LEZMI
It’s a place where you will definetly find many things you can relate too, and a bunch of other things that you can’t even begin to understand.
It’s a small country where eighteen communities, of different backgrounds and aspirations, sometimes contradictory coexist.It has many political parties, most of which are religiously tainted; radical political parties whose leaders are democratically elected and social parties where leadership is inherited. It’s a place where education is sacred, but culture is neglected; yet it’s the sanctuary of most Arab thinkers and artists. It is also a tourist destination for all surrounding Arab neighbors because of the mild weather, beautiful landscapes, and relative sense of freedom which has given Lebanon power and influence over the region.It’s a society with western aspirations (way of life, music, movies, languages…), but a low sense of respect for the law; it’s also a society of eastern backgrounds, which makes it vulnerable to all religious issues and thus a fertile ground to exercise these conflicts.It’s a country where the press is relatively free, but mostly owned by political lords.It’s a place where personal initiative is high, but economic burdens force young educated Lebanese to work in jobsthat leave them little time to focus on anything else (culture, politics…).Lebanon can be the ground of dialogue between all communities, it’s one of those places different cultures can meet and interact; it can also be the ground of war, and never ending conflicts between those same communities and foreign players.
Lebanon is about contradictions.
It was in 1920, under the French mandate, that the final boundaries of Lebanon were created. It resulted in a Lebanon similar to a cheese fondue cooked in cold water, a melting pot between different communities that didn’t really melt.
MY LEBANON, YOUR LEBANON…
Join in and let’s make some Noise!
This ‘zero’ issue of Noise, distributed for free with Volume 11: Unbuilt, is a special edition on projects evolving around public spaces in Lebanon. These projects were presented at the show ‘Pearls for Lebanon’ at De Balie Amsterdam, on the 6th of March 2007.
Noise – Dajjé in Arabic – is a magazine for cultural intervention, dedicated to experimental projects and their realization. An independent, bilingual (Arabic–English), quarterly magazine dealing with some key issues in the Middle East, it opens up boundaries and serves as an interface between subjects of regional intervention and global debate. Noise joins forces with those of like mind in the quest to seek new directions in architectural thinking, arts and culture; it is a medium for socio-political activism. Initiated by Studio Beirut and Volume, this project is an attempt to open a forum for research and design, enlarging the network of the Think and Act tank. If Studio Beirut stands for a fixed common space where projects are discussed and launched by various partners, then Noise will be its two-dimensional, widely disseminated version. Noise will be heard, and read.
What’s the Noise about?
Come home exhibition
Itâ€™s a place that facilitates and stimulates students, fresh graduates and amateurs in their artistic and cultural expression. Finally, Studio Beirut will be a portal to cultural Beirut for foreigners, a welcoming and well connected place that provides a kick start to explore the city and other regions of Lebanon.
Itâ€™s an open place for populations from different backgrounds to explore various development plans through a range of activities, and learn how to apply them on the national, ideological and political level to formulate a common plan for all. Studio Beirut is a place that initiates thinking and discussions on architecture, art, culture and urban development, and their role and responsibility in society.
Studio Beirut will have to be a place that looks beyond ethnic and socio-economical enclaves, tries to avoid any negative connotation (religious, territorial) and promotes public policy and culture.
in a common space
This experience made us also see the need for such spaces where amateurs and fresh graduates can operate, and where projects can be discussed and executed (International Day of Peace in Khiyam, Come home exhibition, xchange party, Beirut unbuilt). The Beirut Studio will be an equipped version of the Gemmayze House. It will try to respond to all these needs while having several tools to enlarge its network through several media and local partners. Ideally, Beirut Studio will not only be a third choice, but a platform from which new choices and ideas are initiated.
Over the last three years, we have been organizing a public space in what is known now as the Gemmayze House.In the last years, Gemmayze has grown into the strong hold of the alternative scene, with the house as one of its centres. The house is a feel-at-home where parties, exhibitions, movie making, play rehearsals and several gatherings took place for free,(a simple bring your own drink affair). The unexpected frequentation by a large number of people made this house a meeting place for many Lebanese and Foreigners in Beirut. It became a place where people feel comfortable and meet others even if it didnâ€™t hold events regularly.
From Gemmayze House to Studio Beirut
There is nothing simple
In a country where communities became s e g r e g a t e d a f t e r a l o n g c i v i l w a r, it was only natural to focus the Beirut Unbuilt debate on finding a common ground that could unite the Lebanese by having them share the same visions. Studio Beirut is the first step in this direction, a place where these subjects and issues are initiated, discussed and promoted. In essence, Studio Beirut is simply a common space.
>Café lounge that serves light beverages and snacks, and offers an internet connection >Meeting room to host events, with an urban show as a platform for thinking and discussing recent urban and social developments in tandem with other projects. >Cine Club, a monthly cycle of picked movies that is followed by discussions on the subject. >Library, and an exchange book shelf, where you can exchange any book you don’t need with others. >Lost & Found, where you can buy and sell objects that you don’t need anymore, or objects of design by young amateurs artists. >Offices for the website, magazine and the edition of the alternative Beirut map that guides you through our events, Hostel, and collaborating partners activities. >Exhibition space for artists, fresh graduates and amateurs. >Teaching courses in different areas >Workshop space dealing with politics, media, art, culture, architecture and design as instruments of social engineering, addressing their role and responsibilities in society.
Fixed program: (based in Studio Beirut)
The events organized outside the Studio will enable us to reach people in different regions, backgrounds and interests.
The Events of Studio Beirut will be held outside its premises as frequently as possible. These Events will be parties held with local collaborators, auctions on design items, big feasts where all Studio Beirut visitors are invited to architectural and artistic contests, forums… Finally there is one regular event. A tour, led by an architect, planner or writer, is also planned every two weeks in different parts of the city. Walking the distance is an opportunity to explore new aspects of the city with questions relevant to social, political and cultural topics.
Through the media it uses (magazine, website), Studio Beirut will have to cover other parts of the Middle East. Issues and developments in the wider region will be addressed in the Studio; formats and media will be exported to the surrounding countries. As stated earlier, Studio Beirut in its simplest form as a common space dealing with uncommon issues; as such, it will not only affect Beirut but also the wider region.
Events: (decentralized activities)
Studio Beirut, with its approach and programs, is a unique project in Lebanon.
The Studio Beirut, as the name indicates, is located in Beirut, as this city is currently the base for all debates and art life in Lebanon, and all events will be dispersed on the rest of the Lebanese territory.
The program is divided in several sections, establishing a centrelized base for certain activities and insuring larger area coverage through decentrelized events. The Studio Beirut is the base for other projects and their launch station.
Studio Beirut will be a space in the city that has no personal or financial targets, thus it will be easier to avoid any connotations, because it works in an open and in an inclusive matter.
Beirut has a rich cultural life, and the night scene is especially active.The city is famous in the region for its clubs, festivals and galleries. That said, many of the platforms and venues in Lebanon have a rather exclusive character.
A specific space on the wall will be dedicated to studio Beirut’s ‘send and receive corner’, posing such questions as “if I was in charge of the country, I would...”. The public can post their ideas and send their questions and suggestions in this space, while the rest of the wall is dedicated freely to public use (concert promo, theatres or movie trailers, advertisements…) under the title “you are allowed to post on this wall” as a response to the municipalities graffiti “you are not allowed to post on the walls” which you can see all over the city walls. At a later stage the BUS will help distribute the Think Tank in every region it will visit.
The Think Tank will provide an urban ‘easy access’ platform used by Studio Beirut to communicate with the public and enlarge its network, providing urban structures lacking to the city and causing, by their absence, great visual pollution. The presented structure is based on a “chameleon wall” that melts with the background and will be offered to municipalities and placed in strategic locations (sidewalks in front of theatres, public spaces, cinemas, pubs, public phones…) and in Studio Beirut. All planning and feedback will be received by Studio Beirut and published in the magazine and website.
The chameleon wall mimics the background of a wall in any region where it will be implemented (depending on each region, the wall texture and colour will change), ensuring its visual integration. The project also includes added values such as the bench and an attached pen.
The Think Tank is an opportunity to introduce an urban element that serves multiple purposes, and boosts the communication between citizens (collecting a sincere vision since the participant will remain anonymous). The number of stands produced can increase to cover wider regions and different cities, and become a referendum structure on a national level.
The street blog contributes in claiming the sidewalks as a common public space and investing these spaces as an area for discussion and promoting various cultural activities.
The fact that the country lacks any free posting structures and this situation led to a chaotic and polluting posting on walls all over the cities.
think tank example
During the civil war in 1975, Lebanon was architecturally divided into sectarian regions, in which each religious community exercised its own urban rules and formed its own public spaces which reflected its perception of space and ultimately was only used by this specific community. Snipers and bombs deprived the Lebanese from the culture of walking the streets or hanging out in parks. A daring project is intended to address this issue and to create public spaces that initially will be as generic as possible and where different people from diverse backgrounds can meet. Rather than concluding that public space and community life are in decline, we should envision a society receptive to pluralism. A dynamic intervention is needed to contribute to social space.
In parallel to the fixed platforms represented in other projects, through and similar to Studio Beirut (the mother ship), a movable platform is intended to reach those who cannot, for any reason, access the magazine, the website or the studio itself… This movable platform is represented by a bus, or an omnibus (since omni means for all), that will be moving from one location to another. Instead of transporting people, as it commonly does, this omnibus will transport space, or more specifically, will generate instant public space.
Junieh Tayr Debba
Tarik el Jdide
Joun Ras Baalbak Tripoli
Beirut Jeb Janin Khiyam
The program is simple and divided in several categories to try to attract the largest number of people, and all services are affordable to all people. The BUS is composed of… a bus. It will transport performers (musicians, kids activities…), benches, lighting, a wc, but also free food, an exchange library and sport equipments and any activity that creates an instant animated public space. The program includes the use of local materials and demands local participation in the public space (depending on each region we visit, it could be local musicians or poets, feasts or dances, kiosks that sell local products…) to promote that space and make sure that it is up to the locals to sustain and maintain it in the future.
The BUS, is scheduled to be launched as the final phase of the project. It addresses local people’s needs by delivering useful, well conceived spaces and services. It will be part of much larger communal facilities. It does not form a microcosm in a region, but links itself with surrounding communities.
The omnibus, with its line “if you won’t come to the public space, the public space will come to you”, is also a way to encourage locals to claim their public space, as it is presented as a system apt for development. It will promote the expression of activities and visions of the locals through public space by establishing a physical contact between different communities. They are the decisive factor on whether it will be a one night stand, or will prosper and live on.
The Studio Beirut team will choose strategic empty lots of land, or an existing public space that needs boosting. The BUS will operate for a period of time in the selected area until the space’s management can be handled by locals. If the experience works, we will leave the basic equipment and move to another destination. If it doesn’t, we will just move everything with us to the next destination. The omnibus will be the mobile platform that ensures the proliferation of the Think Tank urban element, promoting Studio Beirut and enlarging its network. All planning and feedback will be received in Studio Beirut and published in the magazine and on the website.
Backpackers and independent travellers tend to be trendsetters back in their home countries, helping to promote a destination, particularly through word of mouth and the rise of the internet as a mass communication tool. For example, New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam and India were ‘discovered’ by the budget travel market and are now amongst the leaders of the mainstream market as well.
The benefits for Lebanon in encouraging the backpacking scene can be explained as follows. The daily spending of a backpacker may be lower, the travellers tend to stay longer and travel wider in the destination. Because the length of stay is longer and most spending is made with local businesses, the local economic impact can be far greater than for other types of tourists.
Of all the schemes that you might think about for enhancing and improving Lebanon, a hostel might seem the least likely choice. However you are terribly wrong.A number of factors indicating a changing reality in European travel trends are as apparent in Lebanon as elsewhere in the world, namely; the rise of budget airlines, the internet and the growth in independent travel.Undoubtedly Lebanon could be a popular destination for backpackers because of its geographical, climatic, social and cultural assets. Beirut offers sea, ski, unique ancient archaeological sites, beautiful people, Phoenician science, good food, a lively night scene and easy travel to the more traditional Arabic hinterland.
The hostel in Beirut is being developed by Studio Beirut in collaboration with The Circus Berlin which is part of the European Hostel Cooperation. The Beirut Studio team already came up with a financial study for setting up and launching a hostel in central Beirut. We need your support developing this project and connecting Lebanon to the rest of the world. This project will be the start of a safety net based on the idea of emotional attachment and identification, people who will visit Lebanon and stay in the hostel, and similar places we hope this project will catalyse, are likely to become the advocates and speakers of an internationally peace-oriented flourishing vision of Lebanon.
How to set up a hostel and what we need
Introducing a tourist flow to a country that is still recovering is only possible through the independent travellers and backpackers because the only requirements for this type of travellers is the presence of an adequate infrastructure to host them, their adventurousness and curiosity overcomes any instability.
Why would a Hostel work?
Backpackers tend to be highly educated, and though ‘low budget’ now, are more likely to be of high disposable income in the future. Destinations that they find attractive and enjoy as backpackers are likely to be ones which will become a destination of choice for them and their families in the future.
In addition to the mentioned project , a youth hostel is being planned in the Gemayzé house hoping that we include it in our contacts for people searching for an affordable space to spend their stay.
Why a hostel?
Such an initiative will assure a host space for all people interested in taking a closer look to Lebanon in a moderate price and through an authentic experience.It has been introduced locally by already one organizations: Zico house. Therefore we need to decide if we want to establish a new network of locations or append the sources that are interested to the existing organizers.
See also www.pearl-foundation.com
Furthermore, Pearl aims to stimulate intercultural understanding by bringing people together and to encourage a dialogue.
Computer project in Tayr Debba
Playground and park in Tayr Debba
Orphanage in Tibnin
Many projects were initiated by Pearl in the south of Lebanon:
In the present unstable political situation were the central government is not very potent to create overall infrastructures, this plan forms a realistic alternative.
A ferry is a relaxing and nice way of transportation that gives room for meeting people, working and reading. The structure envisioned is â€˜lightâ€™ meaning that it can be implemented easily by local municipalities and no huge infrastructural schemes are necessary.
Transportation in Lebanon, although it is a small country, can take a long time especially now the roads are destroyed in the recent war. A fast boat line along the coast can improve travel time, but will also form an alternative to travelling alone in a car.
Pearl supports the restoration of public services and the realization of cultural activities.
Initiators: Ole Moystad, Norway and L.E.FT New York (Possible) partners: municipalities of harbour cities in Lebanon, municipality of Rotterdam, Norwegian government, Dutch government
The SK8 lane should be provided in between roads and sidewalks in order to facilitate skating circulation. Special exits should also be provided to enable skater to latch on to the adjacent vehicular circulation. Flattened plots that have been hit by missiles should allocate space for a scar (pool, half pipe…) Location of the skating moment should be at the estimated impact point of the missile. Scars should be surrounded by a minimum of 50 square m. and not more than 150 square m. of green grass.
REDISCOVER DAHIEH by YASMINE ABBOUD
Permanent POD: in ‘Parts’ In the Urban and Architectural Fabric, as bus stops, newspaper stands, public seating, planter…
To design a structure that functions
Temporary POD: A ‘Whole’ A housing structure
• The aftermath of the latest summer war on Lebanon drew attention to the lack of adequate public spaces in certain areas especially in the southern suburbs of Beirut.
• The diversity that people are exposed to in these public spaces is eye-opening and leading to new ideas beyond each ones insular world.
• Lebanon’s Public spaces whenever they existed served as melting pots of cultural diffrences.
• Lebanese architects, town planners, and government are guilty of being inactive and silent facing the “laisser-faire” situation.
• It is no more acceptable to smuggle and force soulless buildings and their residual spaces on our built environment.
• The result is outstandingly chocking since the objects created were never identified nor accepted as part of the public realm.
• Almost none of such public buildings or spaces have been decided upon through a process of national or international competition.
• Over the last decade, hundreds of public buildings and projects have been designed and built in Lebanon in an elusive way.
This project will be addressing the following issues:
CITIES AND THEIR PUBLIC SPACES ARE REFLECTIONS OF THE COMMUNITIES LIVING AND WORKING IN THEM. POTENTIAL SITES CAN VARY FROM A STAIR OR SQUARE TO A BUS PARKING AND THE COASTAL STRIP.
• Enriching the quality of life of the Lebanese
• Allowing public participation in shaping the built environment
• Creating a market for cultural tourism
• Creating opportunities for young Lebanese and foreign architects
• Changing the image of the city
• Giving visibility to Lebanon
TO THE FOLLOWING:
THE LAUNCHING OF INTERNATIONAL DESIGN COMPETITIONS WILL CONTRIBUTE
Urban Analysis : Haret Hreik
UNORTHODOX WAYS OF THINKING…DESIGNING…BUILDING… IN HARET HREIK by MAUREEN ABI GHANEM
Workshop under the supervision of BERNARD MALLAT and JOUMANA AL JABRI
Project By: Fadi Sarieddine In collaboration with: Joumana Al Jabri
At the site, a rich reference library gives context to the tour (art, literature, topography, photography).
The first tour presented at Voice-over Beirut is ‘Catastrophic Space’, a walk through Ashrafieh, Eastern Beirut.‘Catastrophic Space’ welcomes you to a small neighborhood just off Sassine Square. Wandering through the area, Tonys voice-over will introduce ideas on the porous city and the notion of catastrophic space and time.
The spectacular is the obvious. But there is much more to the city. This website proposes a number of new entries into the city of Beirut. Places and spaces of inductive urban myth, seductive memories and provoking thoughts. We welcome, first-time visitors and residents alike, to dig into Beirut.
Visitors to Beirut risk a trip solely into the spectacular. Apart from Martyr Square and the Corniche, most of the cities landmarks are places and buildings that refer to war and destruction. The Murr and Holiday Inn towers, the iconic Barakat building, the remnants of the Green Line, the Sabra and Chatilla Memorial Site; many of the obvious entries penetrate the city from its most vulnerable, raw, dramatic site.
Trafficscape Mobile Gardens was exhibited in the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam 2003 where it was received with the well intended humor and intrigue. The theme of the Biennale was Mobility_Room with a view, which focuses on the road scapes and puts its finger on the lack of attention to the qualities of such places.
The non-space of the traffic setting starts to acquire spatial qualities. Trafficscape is an installation/project that is not meant to be an end product but rather a commentary on a situation or an enzyme to mutate the road scene and push into gaining friendlier properties.The concept was expanded to a city version where car rooftops were turned into customized gardens allowing car parks densely spread throughout the city to become visual gardens as the parking lot turns from empty to full.
is an experimental project that was triggered as a reactionary act to Beirut’s sprawling traffic jams and, at the same time, the city’s acknowledged lack of green space. Trucks containing landscaped greenery travel on Greater Beirut’s highways introduce a new organism to the road’s usual components: Cars packed front to back, beggars and street vendors, chaotic advertisement boards (visual pollution) and toxic gases (atmospheric pollution). In such a setting, Mobile Gardens transgress to flirt with the spatial aspect of the traffic space; adding a sense of intimacy and a pleasant feature to be experienced, simply providing oxygen in addition to the potential of being an intriguing means of transportation.
Trafficscape Mobile Gardens: