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Architecture of

& Peace Love and War in the Built Environment Tripoli Randa El Hallak

Architecture of Peace

Love and War in the Built Environment: Tripoli

by Randa El Hallak Master Dissertation Project Academic promoter: Lillet Breddels International Master of Architecture KU Leuven, Campus Sint Lucas Ghent 2018

Acknowledgments Special thanks to the academic promoter Lillet Breddels for her continuous guidance and support. To my family for the endless love and support. To Ali and Ahmad and the people of Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen.

*All images and drawings are by author unless otherwise specified

Palestinian children study in the courtyard of the school of the refugee camp in Shatila,near Beirut, 23 June 1985. (AFP Photo / Joel Robine)


Preface: Architecture of Peace

This studio, supervised by Lilet Breddels, explores the role of architecture in dealing with post conflict areas. Examining all options from the tabula rasa to the small scale urban interventions, we study the effects of architectural interventions on a city’s culture, community, infrastructure, and healing process; physical and psychological.


What is the role played by the built environment in conflict and social injustices, and what role can it play in peace keeping and prevention of future conflicts?



With this research I explore the role of architecture in either separating or bringing people together. If we are to understand peace, we must learn about conflict. Mapping in detail the interface of war, violence, and other social injustices allows us to better understand how peace can be introduced into the same urban fabric. As my site I chose Tripoli, Lebanon: a small city with a rich history. As a direct result of the Syrian civil war there is in Tripoli a small area divided by politics, sectarianism, and culture. Sunni Tebbaneh strive against Alawite Jabal Mohsen. Both areas however have the same problems with post war trauma, drug abuse, poverty, and general marginalization from the rest of Tripoli and Lebanon.

Research Questions: Is it possible for architecture to bring enemies together while simultaneously solving the two communities’ main issues? Can peace be forced? Should we bring people together who do not want to be brought together? And if Yes then How? What is the role of participation in terms of ownership and longevity of projects? What is the role played by the built environment in conflict and social injustices, and what role can it play in peace keeping and prevention of future conflicts?


Eyal Weisman- still from documentary “Rebel Architecture: Architecture of Violence�

If it is so easy to build hatred and separation with borders checkpoints illegal settlements panopticon prison typologies disguised as fences.... 10

Baghe Babour restoration, Kabul, Agha khan foundation

...shouldn’t it be just as easy to build peace? 11

Table of content Preface Architecture of Peace: Framework Abstract

Chapter one : Introduction Architecture of Conflict Post war reconstruction vs architecture Beirut Brotherly Rivalries and Civil Wars Mapping of Hostilities Key words

Chapter two: The Site Syria War Spillover Tripoli: Background Public Spaces The site Background Topography Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen The Conflict Over-Romanticizing sites The Demarcation Forensic Mapping NGOs The People 12

Chapter three: The Project Ownership and Trust: Gentrification of Participation In Praise of Temporality Informality Rehabilitation Concept Architectural Drawings Bibliography


Architecture of Conflict

Architecture of intimidation: Architecture and construction could be often used to separate people, IE walls. They can install fear in a certain group of people, and a sense of power in another. The walls around the west bank and Gaza in Palestine were built intentionally to separate and enclose the Palestinian population. This is an example of anti-people architecture.

wall around Gaza- Panopticon prison


In downtown Beirut, however, it is a completely different story. The designers and planners intention was never to separate or intimidate. Their mistake comes from placing the building in the center of the project, instead of the people. Post conflict trauma requires more care and attention than bullet holes in buildings. Figure on the right shows Lebanese army soldiers protecting downtown from protesters during the 2015-

2016 ‘You Stink’ protests. The protests was a series of secular, non-partisan but politically driven demonstrations. Lebanese people from all different walks of life gathered to protest the government’s failure to find solutions to a waste crisis as well as the illegal extension of parliament. The protests attracted thousands of demonstrators and led to clashes with the police. The fact that the Lebanese parliament is located in one of these buildings adds to the security of the area, making it inaccessible and even more exclusive. At one point in time tourists had to show non Lebanese Identification to be allowed inside. Since then, in January 2018, the Lebanese soldiers have removed some concrete blocks in attempt to rejuvenate the area, but critics claim it is a weak attempt at salvaging the bankruptcy of the businesses. The speaker of parliament, Nabih Berri, who issued the order, said he hoped businesses, restaurants, hotels and offices in the area would now be able to resume work. So it is more about businesses than about creating an inclusive city center for the Lebanese public.

Downtown Beirut, post war


Post War Architecture Vs Reconstruction The role of architects today is so much more than designing buildings. A few decades ago, architecture was considered elite, for the rich by the rich. Today that is quickly changing when architects are finding themselves doing so much more than building. Today’s architects also have to know and care about sociology, urban planning, politics, and activism. Tarik Aaitit, The road to Aaitit, is a popular song among Lebanese revolutionaries, written for the refugees crossing from Palestine into Lebanon. The singer May Nasr is talking to her mother, describing her experience with refugees passing her on Aaitit road on their way to Nabatiye. She says ‘I wish my body was a bridge, oh mother, if it means they can cross.’ This song is the symbol of the human compassion in the naqba ‘exodus’, that she is willing to sacrifice her body, her life, for theirs. The role of architecture is metaphorical and real where the need for reliable infrastructure becomes the difference between life and death. With architecture that is implemented correctly, there will be no need for sacrifice to have bridges.





map of the Exodus from Al-Bassa to Nabatiye passing through Aaitit


key words




Lebanon Syria history geography culture religion Tebbaneh Jabal Mohsen unemployment poverty conflict social marginalization

architecture buildings streets sidewalks stairs cemetery prisons homes schools markets culture balconies extensions marking (tagging) of space health public spaces

key words



war weapons bullet holes monuments politics sectarianism culture safety routes snipers children of fighters (growing up in conflict) death cemeteries drugs PTSD coping poverty unemployment mistrust

coexistence healing maintaining peace rehabilitation education culture safety health job creation opportunity freedom of being sharing monuments



The Architecture of Peace studio case study for post conflict architecture is the city of Beirut, the coastal capital of Lebanon. With only 10,452 km2, Lebanon has 18 different religious sects. The major conflict that took place in Beirut was the 1975-1990 civil war that divided the Lebanese people, mostly Christians against Muslims. Christians of Beirut were more concentrated in the east side, which is reflected by the high amount of churches, and the Muslims concentrated in the west. With that the separation starts to materialize into something more physical. The demarcation line is the physical manifestation of the divide, separating geographically east Beirut from west Beirut. Unlike most man made borders, the demarcation line was characterized by the absence of humans, the lush green belt Map location of Lebanon and Beirut



emerged when trees and grass took over the street and buildings. A shot from the film West Beirut captures the hostility between the two sides. Civilian checkpoints were common, demanding to see an ID. Back then Lebanese people had their religion shown on their identity card, but since then that has changed. The buildings along the green line were left untouched for years due to political sensitivity. Since the end of the war, the central district of Beirut has been rebuilt by the company Solidere. A few other buildings have been since turned into museums as a memory of the war.

East-West demarcation of Beirut

Still from West Beyrouth by director Ziad Doueiri

Beirut green line, 1980

Photo by Steve McCurry, National Geographic, February 1983


1. 3 8

4 5




Map: Landmarks along the green line

1. Hotel St. George

4. El Murr Tower

7. Martyr Square

2. Hotel St George post war

5. The Egg

8. Martyr Square post Solidere

3. Holiday Inn

6. Beit Beirut, now a museum

9. National museum of Lebanon

Catalogue of Landmarks along the green line


Brotherly Rivalries and Civil Wars


Right on the green line is a falafel shop that perfectly captures the Lebanese conflict, separated by one line, brother fighting against brother. Following a disagreement on how they should run their falafel business inherited from their father, one Sahyoun brother (left) decides to split from his brother, opening his own falafel shop, with the same name, right next to his brother’s. Nobody understands the true origin of the feud, but after 12 years, the brothers still do not talk to each other. They only communicate through passive aggressive signs on their shops.

Falafel Sahyoun

Credit Diego Ibarra Sanchez for The New York Times


Mapping of Hostilities


Falafel Sahyoun- mapping of hostilities


Syria War Spillover

The map in figure 14 shows the direct impact of the Syrian Civil War on its neighboring countries. A war so violent is undeniably going to influence the area around it if it doesn’t come to an end. In 2013, the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria, has contributed to the fast spreading of conflicts. The conflict has led to the emergence of multiple regional civil wars, mounting regional instability, economic and demographic decline of Arab countries, and ethno-religious sectarian strife. This consequently resulted in nearly a quarter of a million deaths and millions of refugees in 2014 alone. Near the Eastern border of Lebanon, there have been clashes between the Lebanese army and ISIL where the latter have penetrated the border and entered some towns of the Bekaa valley. map showing conflicts as direct result of Syria civil war in Iraq , Turkey, and Lebanon







All the way across the country, on the coast, there are major areas of conflict. The proximity to Syria in Lebanese coastal towns is social, and not geographical. Before the 1920 declaration of the ‘Greater Lebanon’ by the French mandate, all the coastal cities were still a part of Syria. Between 2011 and 2017, fighting from the Syrian Civil War spilled over into Lebanon as opponents and supporters of the Syrian rebels fought on Lebanese soil. The Syrian conflict stoked a resurgence of sectarian violence in Lebanon, with many of Lebanon’s Sunni Muslims supporting the rebels in Syria, while many Shi’ites and Alawites have supported Assad. In mid-2011, seven people were killed and 59 wounded in a fight between gunmen in Tripoli. The conflict later spread to Beirut and south Lebanon.









Conflicts in Lebanon as direct result of Syria civil war


“Tripoli is the exile and the home in one place” Souhaib Ayoub




Abu Samra, Tripoli Photo credit:

Palm Island,Tripoli


Tripoli is the 27.3km2 home to 5,000 inhabitants, 85 kilometers north of the capital Beirut. Right on Mediterranean Sea, Tripoli has the most Northern located seaport in Lebanon. There are a string of four small islands offshore, one of which is the natural preserve ‘Palm Island.’ Map 1: The old city center of Tripoli dates back to the 14th century, and is rich with diverse cultural heritage left behind by many civilizations. Crusader, Mamlouk, Ottoman, and French architecture makes up the old city center. During Umayyad rule, Tripoli became a commercial and shipbuilding center, and was the port city of Damascus. Tripoli is also home to the largest Crusader fortress in Lebanon, renamed the citadel St.Gilles, of which a part is open for tourists while another part is used as an army base by the Lebanese army.

Tripoli remained a part of Syria until 1920 and the declaration of the ‘Greater Lebanon,’ by the French mandate, when it was added to the Mount Lebanon Motassarifate. Since the 20’s until 1946 the French mandate in Lebanon built many schools, hospitals, and homes. There is a strong influence of French architecture on Lebanese houses. Map 2: Tripoli international fair construction started in the 1960s. Designed by architect Oscar Neimeyer, it was supposed to represent a new era for the city, as the cultural hub of the Middle East. The new modernist vision for the city included a plan for development that would make Tripoli look like Brasilia’s distant cousin, but the 1975 civil war quickly put that dream on hold. Construction on the international fair has stopped during the war and was never restarted, although the fair was used on numerous occasions for concerts, fairs, and festivals. It is the city’s stage for the forgotten and neglected. As fascinating as it is to have an epic modernist landmark paused in time, midway through its construction, the neglect is causing the structure to fall apart and decay, and pretty soon even the ruins will disappear.

Map 3: The new development started to emerge in 2008. Home to Tripoli’s upper middle class, it is a residential area with commercial ground floors. Cafes, restaurants, and shops, mostly frequented by those living in the new developments. The land was rezoned and divided into plots and sold for construction. It is referred to among Tripolitans as Dam wel Farez which is Arabic for rezoning. In an attempt to make the area look cohesive, there is a law that every building should have arches on its ground floor.

Because Tripoli has been part of Syria until 1920, there is a very strong cultural link between the Tripolitans and Syria. Many people from Tripoli have families in Syria, especially in cities near the border like Homs.


Map 1 The Old City Center


1. Crusader architecture- the citadel

4. Ottoman architecturehamams and khans

2. French architecture- residential

5. oriental sweets

Image Catalogue: The Old City Center

3. Mamlouk architecturemosques, madrasas

6. oriental breakfast photo credit: no garlic no onion


Map 2 The International Fair


1. entrance

4. the dome, experimental theater

2. the exhibition

5. pyramid, kindergarten

3. the heli pad

Image Catalogue: The International Fair photos by Anthony Saroufim

6. stage, arch, and water tower


Map 3 New Development


Image Catalogue: New Development


Public Space

Lebanon is often criticized by western architects and urban planners for its lack of good public spaces and for the emptiness of the few public spaces it does have. The notion of a public space in Lebanon is very different to that of Europe. Public square - Beirut uncredited

Big static squares do not attract people to interact with one another in this context. Unlike the traditional western rectangular spaces that are the usual shapes considered to be public space, in the Lebanese context those spaces tend to be linear. Linear dynamic spaces are always filled with people being social and carrying their outdoor lives. This is due to three different factors. First, the Mediterranean Sea side which allows for a long and continuous stretch of corniche.

Open square - Tripoli photo by Julien lanoo


Second is the geography of Lebanon. The proximity of high hills to the low sea level means that there will be cities situated on sloping land that will need stairs. This special topography allows for spacious stairs that can be used by inhabitants as public space.

This is manifested in most Tripoli souk typologies with a few exceptions. The routes are thus transformed from a tool that takes you from point A to point B into a social space where people from different walks of life intersect and interact.

Finally, the cafe culture contributes to the dynamics of public life. CafĂŠ culture is a distinct form of social interactions that exists among certain cultures, in some more than others. When bars and cafes are extended onto sidewalks and roads, they foster a vibrant social setting. In a European context the commercial ground floors extending outwards are usually around traditional rectangular squares. In Tripoli however, this phenomena takes place in a more linear typology, whether along sidewalks, roads, or alleyways.

If there is a lacking in public spaces, it is in public buildings and collective interior spaces.


Public spaces in Tripoli diagram


1. cafe culture

2. sea front/corniche

3. stairs

Image catalogue: public spaces in Tripoli


The Site

“I was always ready to die defending my neighborhood” Ali


Left: Wall on Site showing traces of conflict Top: Map showing site location in Tripoli


Around 40,000 inhabitants share a space as big as the international fair.


Just on the periphery of the old city center and over the river is the area of Tebbaneh. With 40,000 inhabitants its roughly the size of the Tripoli international Fair, the abandoned building not used by anyone. In the early 1900s the streets of the site were always busy with economic prosperity. It was a commercial hub full of khans where goods were transported up the coast from Beirut towards Syria. The 1956 flooding of Abu Ali river that destroyed most of the buildings and that was the first trigger to shift the prosperity line downwards. After the flood came the recurring conflicts that also made it harder for the area to regain its strong economic post. Today most of the buildings are riddled with bullet-holes and war scars.



Topographic map of site


Topographic view



Tebbaneh has twelve Mukhtars, the municipality is unable to sufficiently cover the financial needs so religious institutions often act as community support. The 20.5k population is mainly divisible into Lebanese (83%) and Syrian (15%). Stemming from the 2008 conflict with Jabal Mohsen, Tebbaneh suffers from low safety levels which is shown by drug abuse, corruption, robberies and gun usage. Main health problems are due to polluted water, poverty and unhygienic practices. 85% of children of primary school age attend school, whereas 27% of children of secondary school age are attending school. 50% of children are involved in economic activities and household chores. Tebbaneh location


Jabal Mohsen

Jabal Mohsen has one Mukhtar, the municipality is unable to sufficiently cover the financial needs so religious institutions often act as community support. The 13.6k population is mainly divisible into Lebanese (94%) and Syrian (6%). Stemming from the 2008 conflict with Tebbaneh, Jabal Mohsen suffers from low safety levels which is shown by drug abuse, corruption, robberies and gun usage. Main health problems are due to polluted water, poverty and unhygienic practices. 9 in 10 of children of primary school age attend school, whereas 74% of children of secondary school age are attending school. 42.9% of children are involved in economic activities and household chores. Jabal Mohsen location



Image Catalogue: Tebaneh urban fabric


Jabal Mohsen

Image Catalogue: Jabal Mohsen urban fabric


Culture and Gender Tebbaneh


Jabal Mohsen

Cultural differences towards gender between sites


Street Use


Street use images and sketches


The Conflict

Map showing demarcation


When the Lebanese civil war became too bloody, and no end was in sight, The Lebanese turned to the Syrian government for help. Syrian regime troops were deployed to Lebanon to help maintain a state of peace by limiting the presence of the Palestinian guerrilla presence in 1976. In 1991, Lebanon signed a Treaty of “Brotherhood, Cooperation, and Coordination”, with Syria, legitimizing the latter’s military presence in Lebanon. The treaty would ensure that Lebanon would not be made a threat to Syria’s security and that Syria was responsible for protecting Lebanon from external threats. However the Syrian army presence in Lebanon quickly turned controversial when they refused to leave until they were forced out by country wide protests in 2005. The Syrian forces were officially announced their withdrawal from Lebanon on April 30, 2005. As in Syria, in Tripoli Lebanon, there is a minority of Muslim Alawites, and a majority of Muslim Sunnis. This has led to the favoring and unequal treatment of Alawites and Sunnis, which has caused serious grudges between the two communities post occupation.

Between Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen there have been conflicts for decades. With the most recent conflicts restarting in 2008, many of the residents are recruited because of the high unemployment rates. From 2008 until 2015 there have been 22 major conflicts. In 2014 the Lebanese Army’s security plan finally put a stop to the violence. However post conflict Tripoli has lost many of its youth, whether to the cemetery, religious extremism, or prisons. Although ending the conflict is the main objective, now we must think about rehabilitating the ex fighters instead of sending them to prison and keeping the vicious cycle of unemployment and exploitation going.



Image catalogue: Conflict

Post Conflict: scars


Over-Romanticizing Sites

It is a very positive thing for architects to be hopeless romantics. Whether it is about the future of architecture, culture, politics, or justice, it is important to keep a hopeful approach to design. However we need to be mindful not to over romanticize the sites we work on because it could mean chaos to the communities. In Tebbaneh there is a main road called Syria Street. It is amusing irony that the demarcation line of a miniature prototype of the Syrian war would be called Syria Street. If this amusing coincidence brings in the much needed outside attention to the site then great; I’m all for it. It becomes dangerous however when it is repeatedly sold as the only truth, not just by vice articles but by professional researchers. Syria Street is not the demarcation line, it is located inside Tebbaneh.


I came to this realization as I analyzed news footage of the conflict. Tebbaneh fighters would stand on Syria Street to shoot at the Jabal Mohsen. At first this led me to believe that the Tebbaneh Sunnis are the clear attackers and Jabal Mohsen Alawites are the clear defenders because demarcation lines are meant to be no man’s land and the one who penetrates it is the aggressor. A deeper analysis and a site visit led to the realization that there are Tebbaneh Sunni households on the other side of Syria Street as well. In foreign aid and interventions we ideally would like to not take sides and help both struggling communities, so where better to put our efforts than the demarcation zone? Since Syria Street is considered the central zone it would receive all the attention. The aid, community help centers, and NGOs built on Syria Street would be only accessible to the Sunnis of Tebbaneh. Here the flaws in sentimentalizing architecture begin to show and the ‘doing good’ is potentially instigating new conflict.

The Demarcation

The hardest part about this project was finding the actual demarcation line. The demarcation line is very unclear, because of the geographical nature of the slope often the same building could be half in Tebbaneh, half in Jabal Mohsen, thus the overlap in highlights. One of those mixed buildings is shown in the figure on the left. Although the footprint of the building is on the Tebbaneh side, to access their Jabal Mohsen home, the residents have created a bridge in order to avoid the crossing from Tebbaneh. The demarcation zone has the highest number of demolished buildings that were damaged beyond repair in the conflicts.

Home on Demarcation



Because of the typography, stairs are a very important part of the public and private life in the area.

Map: location of stairs


Wide Public Stairs They act as an important gathering space, with the spacious landing attracting children to play football.

Public Semi-narrow Stairs There are numerous stairs like this on the demarcation line. They connect Tebbaneh to Jabal Mohsen.

Private semi-narrow stairs Those stairs lead to private homes, but are clearly visible from street; could easily be mistaken for public.

Public narrow stairs They are stairs that are not visible from street, public only to those who know about them, the inhabitants.

Image catalogue: types of stairs


“There were old stairs here They linked Jabal Mohsen with Bab el Tebbaneh”

“We spent days on those stairs Before it wasn’t like that”

“When the battles started, they removed the stairs”

“Whoever dared to pass from here, his life was ended It was the demarcation line.”

Image catalogue: Stills Love and War on the Rooftop: The Documentary, MARCH(2015)




Syria Street demarcation line area boundary military station point military check point military settlement Bedawi refugee camp blocked road

Security Map


Forensic Mapping

Site chosen for Forensic Mapping


Forensic mapping is a crucial tool in understanding the role of architecture in a certain conflict. ‘Forensic Architecture’ is a team of multi disciplinary investigators who research conflicts and recreate them digitally to provide evidence of human rights violations that act as the voice for the voiceless. By using images and videos as basis for their investigation, they translate the stories of horror into irrefutable evidence that one hopes would be used to protect the innocent and hold the aggressors responsible. By keeping an eye on the spatial dimension of conflicts, I map from videos, images, and stories the role played by the built environment. The site I chose acts as a prototype for the entire area. It includes the urban fabric of both sides, the demarcation, and the distinctive topography of the site.

The tools I have used for the investigation includes news footage, documentaries, pictures, a site visit, and personal stories told to me by the residents. Some aspects are easier to prove without a shadow of doubt than others. The numbers and locations of security points are easily mapped from a site visit. Personal stories however are more susceptible to subjectivity and exaggerations. Personal stories however could be backed by spatial and physical evidence. A man’s story of being on the receiving end of a hail of bullets while he was sitting at home quickly gained credibility when he showed me the scars left on his body by the bullets and the location of his living room which was in clear range of the line of fire.


The white in this map represents the safe zones during the conflicts. The section shows the difference of levels between the 2 sites. Tebbaneh being mostly flat and Jabal Mohsen having a steep slope. Public Safe spaces also include small spaces behind walls and spaces in between buildings.

Forensic Mapping: Safe Spaces- The Divide


Forensic Mapping Image Catalogue: Safe Spaces- The Divide


This map shows the difference in building density. The buildings in Tebaneh side are more formal in shape, bigger, and closer together than those in Jabal Mohsen. The gray represents buildings that have been demolished by the unforgiving line of fire. There are 3 right next to each other, which is another clue that this is the area (the demarcation) most affected by the conflicts.

Forensic Mapping: Demolished Buildings


Forensic Mapping Image Catalogue: Demolished Buildings


Sniper positions This map was made from on site Analysis of perfect sniper positions and analysis of news footage and documentaries. Stairs, walls, and rooftops are key players in the conflict. Fighters would be positioned inside building and on the streets, protected by the walls and buildings.

Forensic Mapping: Sniper Positions


Forensic Mapping Image Catalogue: Sniper Positions


Army security points Security points are observed on site. They vary from tanks and barrels to barbed wires, concrete blocks, sand bags and presence of army personnel. There is an army base where there is a high concentration of security points.

Forensic Mapping Security Forces Positions


Forensic Mapping Image Catalogue: Security Forces positions



Forensic Mapping Model




This map shows the locations of the Commercial ground floor shops currently being renovated by the ex-fighters from both sides. NGO MARCH has provided jobs for the youth. When they have a common goal, the sensitivity between the communities is forgotten for a moment. Getting rid of an important factor of the conflict, unemployment, has drastically reduced instances of violence.

Forensic Mapping Commercial shops being renovated by ex-fighters


Forensic Mapping: Photo catalogue: Commercial shops being renovated by ex-fighters


Different patterns represent the religious divide among the buildings. Buildings on the demarcation line have both patterns, as discussed earlier that the first two levels are Tebbaneh and the last two are Jabal Mohsen.

Forensic Mapping: Religious divide in buildings


Collage showing the ex-fighters responsible for the damages who are now rebuilding their city together


Qahwetna cafe by NGO March


NGOs In the area there are numerous Non Governmental Organizations working with youth, children, men and women. Those NGOs work to enhance the daily lives of inhabitants, their health, education, and promote a culture of peace. Among the NGOs are:

Ruwwad Al Tanmeya


Ruwwad community center in Jabal Mohsen and Bab El-Tebbaneh opened in 2012 during the conflicts. Accessible from both sides of the divide, the office remained open to the youth during the clashes. “Until this day, the center enabled 191 youths, giving them access to education, enrichment programs and civic engagement opportunities. Ruwwad Lebanon has become a platform for conflict resolution, peace building and bringing youths and children across sectarian divides to engage in learning, community service and entrepreneurial endeavors.” RUWWAD website:

By the end of the conflicts in 2015, MARCH organization mobilized into the area with a play titled ‘Love and War on the Rooftops’ by Lebanese director Lucien Bourjeily. The play would be inspired by the daily lives of the residents and performed by youth from both sides. With classes and training this experiment had an obvious positive impact on the lives of those involved. And with that March opened a center on the demarcation line. Qahwetna, a cultural cafe that employs people from both sides and provide different classes. With funding from the Dutch and Canadian Embassies, they have also started the Bab el dahab project, for the renovation of shops affected on both sides. MARCH website:


The People: Ali

On my last day on site, I sat down with Ali, a 24 year old Alawite from Jabal Mohsen, to learn more about his life. We then went on a walk in the area to put faces to names and places to stories. Sitting across the table from Ali in their cafe Qahwetna, it is hard to imagine he is the same man he is describing in his stories. I guess Ali’s story started before he was even born. His father is axis commander of the Arab Democratic Party in Jabal Mohsen. Born into a strong political household, everyone in the area knows and respects Ali. Ali’s father cared about his children and wanted to keep them safe from conflict, but at the same time couldn’t sit on the sidelines himself and act as an example. Ali from Jabal Mohsen showing me the locations where his stories took place


AA My brothers and I were always forbidden by my father to carry guns or participate in any of the clashes, but after my dad was blinded by a gunshot to his eye, I had no choice but to fight back. 22 conflicts. 22 injuries. I have participated in every single armed conflict between the two sides, and have injuries from every single one. At the age of fourteen, Ali was forced into adulthood. It was the first time he ever tried drugs. AA It was actually in Tebbaneh, and not in the Jabal. That night I was wanted by the police, so I thought since I am already a wanted criminal, might as well really break the law. There was a fight. All my cousins were away at the beach because it was a Sunday, except for one. I look at the street to see a group of guys coming to attack my lone cousin. Our big family and support system was all away, I had no one to turn to so I ran home, grabbed my father’s gun, went to the street where the fighting was happening and fired shots in the air. The night I found out I was wanted for shooting a firearm in a public place, I tried pills for the first time.

RH Tell me about your wife AA She is Sunni from Tebbaneh. We eloped together, but people from Tebbaneh refused to believe it was love. They accused me of kidnapping and rape and swore revenge. One of the 22 conflicts was the direct result of this marriage. Three years later they divorce but for reasons unrelated to the sectarian divide. RH So you have had regular contact with people with Tebbaneh AA Yes I have many Sunni friends. During the conflicts I would call them every night to make sure they were OK. When the mosque was bombed we lost communication and I was worried about them. AA Jabal Mohsen is completely surrounded by enemies, during the conflicts it wasn’t possible to go anywhere without the danger of being attacked. But since I had many Sunni friends, it was possible for me. They would come in their car to pick me up, we’d meet halfway down the road. I used to call the boys from our side and ask them not to shoot; that the car is coming for me. It was on me to survive halfway down the road, and on them to survive the other half.


Ali isn’t sure about the exact number of times we was arrested, they are too many. I asked him what the common things he would get arrested for were. Ali lists: AA street fights picking fights with the army I once shot a guy in the leg another guy i put a knife to his throat… RH Why did you shoot the guy in the leg? Was it a street fight? AA When guys come down from Jabal to Tebbaneh you know they will get harassed and bullied, it’s normal but some guys take it too far. They had pulled a man out of his car, and started beating him while his wife and young children watched from the car. It’s not right, I went to help and one thing led to another I shot him in the foot. RH And you went to prison? AA Not prison, just the police station. The prison story is something else. I stayed in qobbeh prison for nine months. RH nine months for what? AA attempted murder. My friends and I were at Mina corniche, and there was a lady walking her dog. Behind the


lady were 3 guys harassing her. She was clearly upset and bothered. I interfered to help, and asked the guys to leave her alone. Then came the usual oh yeah, what are you going to do about it? I ran to my car to take the gun, but my cousin was close behind. He warned me that we weren’t in our town, shooting a gun here could mean serious prison time. I was convinced and went back to the guys unarmed. One of the other guys pulled out a knife and attacked me. In self defense, I took the knife and slashed the man’s throat, putting him in a coma. RH How old were you then? AA 17. AA The man survived that’s why it’s only attempted murder. RH But you didn’t have a weapon on you, wouldn’t that be considered self defense? AA Yes it was, that’s why I was only there for 9 months. Because neck is murder. In prison, Ali was put in solitary confinement and it drove him to repeatedly stab himself in the gut, hoping to die.

In 2014, when Ali was 20 years old, someone has slipped too many pills in his brother’s drink and he overdosed. The next day, Ali’s best friend overdosed. The day after that, Ali attempts suicide for the second time. AA I thought to myself is this my life? Am I just going to get high and watch the people I love die? I cut my neck. Look, this is after many re-constructive surgeries. RH Have you ever overdosed? AA 5 times. For help we went to the Bedawi Palestinian Refugee Camp clinic, because going to a hospital would put us in trouble with the law. When my brother overdosed, even the clinic refused to help. We completely trashed the clinic breaking and burning everything we could find until the doctor agreed to treat him. Since then, they always accept the overdose cases at the clinic. If you are taken to that clinic, you are as good as dead. Most of the people who died during the conflicts died in the clinic and not on the battlefield. The last time Ali ever took pills, it was a year before I met him.


AA I gathered with his friends in Tebbaneh looking for something to do, they gathered all their spare change to make enough to buy pills. I’m the only one who can get the pills among my friends, because I get it from the pharmacy. I went to the pharmacist and said give me 4 bottles of Rivotril. He said Ali you know I can’t do that without a doctor’s prescription. So I said you’re not going to give them to me? Let’s see what will happen to your pharmacy tonight. He quickly gave in and gave me the pill bottles. By that point I was taking pills for 9 years, I could barely feel anything. I needed so much drugs just to get a kick. So that night I took so many pills and my brain just dissociated from reality. I don’t remember anything that happened that night. I pieced it all together later, from stories of people, videos and images. When I took the pills I had no money in my pockets. The next day my mother tells me that night I gave her more than 2 million Lebanese liras, and told her to take care of herself and the children. My friends told me I spent the night robbing people, I would ask for 500,000 and if I got any less I would beat them up. They all gave me their money because they knew me. That was the worst part, when I think about what


I did to those people. The next day I went to them one by one and apologized and swore I would never do drugs again ...and I haven’t. At some point during that night there was another street fight, with guns and knives, I held my gun and I shot it directly at a man’s face. Someone kicked my hand and I missed. Can you imagine, I could’ve easily killed someone that night. Anyway me and my cousin got on the motorbike and headed to the police station. So we can file a complaint before the other guys do. On the way there we have a terrible accident we are all bloodied and with broken bones, but we went to the station anyway. When we got there we saw the other guys filing a complaint against us. They looked much worse than us, we really beat them senseless. The police decided to put all of us together in one room. I kept yelling and cussing at the police chief to let us out. Finally one of the police who we know from the area took me aside and told me ‘you have unregistered guns, knives, 4 guys who are completely bloodied by you, I’m not sure you want to be yelling at the chief of police right now. Calm yourselves and I’ll get you out.’

He told us to leave and he would send us our guns later, but I refused to leave without my guns or knives. He agreed and we were finally on our way. When we left the station we went where we would usually go in the mornings, to the cemetery. To spend time with our friends who have passed in the conflicts. You are not allowed to go up by motorbike, they worry about bombs, but I didn’t want to walk so I told the soldier down the road I was Intelligence and kept going to see the tombs of my friends. AA The next day began my recovery, I was very ashamed at all the hurt I caused the people around me. I reached out to NGO Soukoun, we would have meetings in Qahwetna back-room, because they do not have a rehab center here. Getting clean was very hard. Withdrawal was very painful. When it wasn’t bearable anymore I would go to the hospital but I couldn’t tell them what was wrong because they were obliged to call the police and tell them about the drugs. Now I am completely clean from pills I am working with Soukoun to spread awareness in the area among the young men by spreading brochures with help hot-lines and numbers of doctors who can help. I went to the rehab

center in Beirut, met many guys who were going through the same thing. We would talk to psychologists and doctors. They didn’t make us hang out as a group but we often would in the garden, because you know these guys are going through the same thing so you trust them. Now with NGO March Ali is applying for a grant to help set up a rehabilitation facility in the area.


Stairs on demarcation line, where Ali was shot in the chest as he was preparing a bomb. (4)

The play organized by March NGO

The cafe opened by March where Ali today works, in the administration office (9)

Jabal Mohsen cemetery, Ali pays respects to his friend Kanjo (6)

Brochures Ali gives out for drug rehabilitation help (2)

The stairs where Ali would hide from the police- also connecting Tebbaneh to Jabal. (5) The stiars seem to be in a private building to those who are not locals of the area

Image Catalogue: Built environment role in Ali’s experiences


2 3


4 5


9 6


1. Tebbaneh 2. roads 3. Ali’s old home 4. stairs on demarcation line 5. stairs in private building(not seen from road but publicly accessible to those who know of its existence 6.jabal cemetery 7. bedawi Palestinian refugee camp 8.Qobbeh prison 9. March cafe



My project proposal is a rehabilitation center for the people of Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen. It would have a drug overdose emergency response center, the first in the north with no police involvement. The rehab would also have counseling rooms, individual and group, as per need. The counseling rooms are also for careers to help youth with looking for a career that is suitable for them. Workshops will also be present to make sure that after they are clean, they have a chance at employment so that they don’t return to the same world of poverty and unemployment that pushed them to extremism or drugs in the first place. The first ever tourism office for the site will also be in the center, to encourage people to have pride in their home. The maps or brochures could be designed in the computer center in the same building.


Page from Skoun brochures Ali gives out showing which hospitals don’t tell the police about drug related emergencies.

Map showing locations of the hospitals in relation to the site. The closest hospital is an hour and a half drive from site.


The People: Ahmad

A 12 year old from Tebbaneh, Ahmad is the oldest of 6 children. His father was shot in the head during the conflicts, but survived. Due to trauma his mother had a miscarriage and lost her youngest child. His father is now in prison for terrorism. As the oldest male, Ahmad works in the fish market everyday before school. After school he helps the local Abel el Harouk with his movement Mena w Fina clean up Tebbaneh, specifically Ba3el el Darawich area, in the area chosen for forensic mapping. Ahmad says he was too young to see the all of the conflicts, but his grandfather has told him everything. He showed me where the buildings that were demolished by the conflicts were.

Ahmad showing off his pet chicks with his friends under his house



The People

The overlapping of Ahmad and Ali’s storylines show how often their stories could have intersected. Both live on the demarcation line, and have a story with the prison and conflicts.



The People Characters I met on site



The Gentrification of Participation

In a European context participation has lost all of its initial democratic appeal according to architect and writer Markus Miessen. Participation should first and foremost be an individual effort. Contribute to your community what you know and are good at instead of following an existing template of how the ideal citizen should behave. It is a similar problem with volunteerism where amateurs who aren’t trained in a certain field are given immense responsibility and with that those who should actually be held responsible are let off the hook (like politicians). It is not wrong to accept that a certain individual who is a trained professional should be the one in charge of a certain role in society/community. Participation should by all means be open as an option for everyone who wants to participate, as long as it is an individual effort that is aimed at the appropriate direction, and those in charge are still held responsible for the process.


What does this mean for architecture? It is a great things that today communities can have so much say in what their towns/ cities look like. It is important to remember however that architects and planners have gone to school for years and they are professionals of the field. They have appropriate experience and know how to translate the needs of the community into the built environment. That is not to say that architects and planners should have the only and final say in all things related to architecture of a city. More and more different fields are becoming relevant to and influential on each other. It is important to open up a dialogue between professionals of different fields and residents, where designers act as facilitators and enablers of space to show the community the link between architecture and their demands.

What does this mean for Tripoli? Tripoli is yet to take on participation as a form of communal democracy. However with more community members showing active interest in social change, we should prepare for its imminent introduction into the society. Should we approach participation as a clean slate; is it a journey every city must go through on its own merit to find through trial and error what works best for it? Or do we learn from the mistakes of western cities to limit participation to appropriate measures so not all participation is rendered irrelevant and banal? In the case of Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen I believe participation in any form should be welcomed with open arms, because the area and its citizens have been historically marginalized by the rest of Tripoli, even gentrified, hipster participation is welcome. It is important for citizens to take an active role in the community to foster ownership, trust, and encourage peaceful communication.


Participating in Tebbaneh community clean up with boys and girls of the demarcation zone


In Praise of Temporality

To accept that nothing is permanent would be a terrifying but also wonderful thing. My grandfather from my mother’s side was from Al Bassa, Palestine. Today Al Bassa is an Israeli settlement, and my grandfather has passed away before I was born. The temporality of my grandfather: his life, his village and its culture, means that they were just there at a moment in time but no longer. Accepting the fading of everything that village was, means accepting that what came after it too will pass. It inspires faith in the temporality of checkpoints, security structures, settlements, and even conflicts. Accepting the temporality of things allows us to prepare for their inevitable passing. To me the provocative nature of temporality is perfectly captured by the architecture practice DAAR.

Decolonizing Art/Architecture Residency (DAAR) is an architecture practice based in Beit Sahour, Palestine. The studio explores and experiments with architecture as a tool for political action. With their proposals they re-imagine future reuse of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. Their mission is to “reapproprate and transform existing Israeli settlements and military bases, which are among the most powerful instruments of domination.” (Testify!) To prepare for inevitable military evacuation, DAAR imagine three possible scenarios. The first would be complete destruction of structures as what happens in Gaza. The second scenario would be the adopting of the same functions by new users, the Palestinians.


Al Bassa pre-occupation, as imagined by author


Proposal for reuse of Israeli settlements by DAAR in Beit Sahour


Neither of the two scenarios could help the Palestinian population in its struggles as the former would be a complete waste of energy and resources, and the latter would only reproduce the colonial power relations. The third scenario, the one imagined by DAAR is one where the spaces are “re-purposed and invested with new meaning” (Testify!) This scenario is about claiming the infrastructure left behind and transforming it from a tool of segregation and intimidation to a tool of tactical architectural and social development. There are hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. All of which are either single family dwellings or military bases with prefabricated barracks.


It is interesting to see in Tripoli that most of the buildings that were taken over by Assad’s troops are left as they were and haven’t been reused. Sometimes the statement made by the proposal to reuse is much stronger than waiting and actually reusing. If someone had proposed future reuse of Syrian military bases while the troops were still in them it would have been more ‘real’ than anything we do with them now for real. A proposal during the invasion would have been so much more powerful than it would be now because it forces society to consider the temporality of the occupation when it seemed it would be there forever. To experiment with Temporality and participation, the children of Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen and I spray painted a wall that was scheduled to be painted the next day as a donation by a local artist. It was important to have fun with something we create that we call our own even if you know it will only be there for 24 hours.

Cleaning the site is a temporary event that needs to reoccur periodically. When residents do the cleaning up themselves it fosters a new sense of ownership and pride in their town, and they are likely to participate in cleaning more often. On the demarcation line, the giant sand bags left by the military as a separator of the two sides, have since the end of the conflict been taken over by vegetation. The barricades were spontaneously reused by nature. This way they go from being security barriers to city planters without human intervention. [65] Army barricades (sand bags) spontaneously being reused by nature



Still from Youtube Vice documentary 2014

Mena w Fina citizen cleanup 2016


Cedric Price: Fun Palace


Reference: Cedric Price and the anti building Making architecture that is adaptable to the future and different users. To him time is critical component of architecture. Since we cannot accurately predict the uses and changes over time, we must acknowledge the impossibility of totalized planning, and we should design for uncertainty in program. The Fun Palace is a constantly changing experiment, adaptable to different activities. My project would only succeed in its temporality. If a rehab center is still needed in say 50 years, then the project has failed. That’s why it is multi use functions with classes, for future generations as well as today’s. Classes and rooms should be adaptable to the needs of the community.




The project would be a rehab center, for drugs and post conflict trauma. In order to secure the rehabilitation of ex fighters into society, they need to learn a certain skill, to make sure they have a chance at employment when they leave the center. We want to avoid the scenario where they become clean, but leave the rehabilitation center to find all the same problems that pushed them to drugs in the first place. The rehab center would need doctors therapists and social workers. The skill learning workshop will start with a definitive set of skills, that are in higher demand in the area today. But those spaces need to be adaptable to stay relevant in the future as the needs of the community change.

Open and closed public spaces that are safe free and inclusive will also be a very important part of the project. Recreating the typology of the city and what we learned from forensic mapping, we can recreate the built environment in a way that it can contribute to peace and health instead of conflict and injustice. The blur between public and private, open and closed will not be an inclusive tool that fosters trust in the residents, instead of a tool to aid with fighting or hiding from the police.


Site of the Project

On the demarcation line, the site used to have informal/illegal commercial shops, only one level. The municipality has demolished the shops, leaving only the wall and some columns. The municipality has asked the local NGOs working on the rehabilitation of the street not to touch the wall because it has plans to tear it down and create a handrail in its place, to connect that two sides. As it is on the demarcation line, it is accessible from both sides. The Tebbaneh access would be 9 meters lower than the Jabal Mohsen access. My proposal is to extend the plan of the municipality and integrate it into the building.


Site of Center



Site Section


View of site from demolish building next to it. Proposal for demolished building plot: Keep it an open public space where it could act as one of the entrances to the project with a monument commemorating those who were lost during the conflicts. A monument that would be for both sides: In Muslim culture when a loved one passes it is common to build a watering fountain in their name, so those who are thirsty can quench their thirst in honor of the passed. One big fountain in honor of all the deceased from both sides.


Current view of Jabal Mohsen side of site (March 2018)


demolished building

The Concept

To transform the built environment from an agent of conflict to a spatial agent of peace and co-existence. built environment, spatial agent of conflict: -stairs -rooftops -slopes -alleyways -walls

[71] Site during conflicts


drug abuse on rooftops


separating wall

sniper positions on stairs and rooftops 127











PROGRAM Adminstration Tourism office/ museum Information office Admin offices Rehab Emergency drug overdose response Center: (30*7m) Emergency rooms Doctor offices Waiting room Staff room 4 Counseling Rooms (also for career counseling, drug addiction not prerequisite) (3.5*3.5m each) Workshops (aprox. 10*10m each) Woodworking workshop Computer workshop Kitchen workshop Hair dressing workshop


Right on the demarcation line, it will be an extension of the narrow public space (side walk) in Jabal Mohsen) it will be completely under the zero level of Jabal Mohsen, providing an urban park with benches and skateable architecture for inhabitants. The main public space is a stair case, to continue in the spirit of the site, It will be a wide 3.5 m stair case that connects all the functions together. from terrace to terrace, with secondary pricate and semi private stairs that lead to praivate functions.


Jdide road, jabal Mohsen Drug overdose emergency response Center Individual counseling rooms Group counseling rooms woodworking/furniture workshop Kitchen workshop adminstration hair dresser workshop with double height museum and tourism office computer and media workshop Tebbaneh

Function Diagram


T +0m


J +0m

Section BB


[70] Mass Plan


Plan +6m T or -3m J


Plan +3m T or -6m J


Plan +0m T or -9m J


Axonometric view


Public narrow stairs Public wide stairs Private semi-narrow stairs Public semi-narrow stairs

Public accessible terrace Semi Public accessible terrace Semi Private accessible terrace

circulation and accessibility diagram



Perspective Section AA



I beam steel frame Cement panels Wood (openable) panels


25 cm concrete slab

20 cm high I steel beam Cement panels 20 cm H steel column Glass panels Steel frame Timber louvers



View 1: A safe space: private counseling room


View 2: Linear public space with ground floor extension


View 3: Double height workshop. Artwork by Tripolitan young artist Hayat Chaaban says ‘We are brothers, why must we fight? more of Hayat’s art can be seen at


View 4: Stairs as public space



Online image or video


AL JAZEERA Rebel Architecture- Architecture of Violence Ana Naomi de Sousa. 2014 Available from: https://www. architecture-violence-2014629113556647744.html

MIESSEN, M. Did someone say participate? Cambridget, Mass.: M I T Press; 2006.

VICE Warlords of Tripoli. 2014. Available from: https://www.



KEE, T. AND MIAZZO, F. We Own the City Amsterdam: Valiz; 2014.

BOURJEILY, L. Love and War on a Rooftop MARCH; 2015.

RIENIETS, T., SIGLER, J. AND TUCKER, E. Open City Amsterdam: SUN; 2009.

Doueiri, Z West Beirut 1998

DAVID, C. AND PUYPE, K. Frontières invisibles Oostkamp: Stichting Kunstboek; 2009.

E-book or PDF

LYDON, M., GARCIA, A. AND DUANY, A. Tactical urbanism

TRIPOLI CITY PROFILE 2016 UN-Habitat; 2016 Available from: tripoli-city-profile-2016/ LEFÈVRE, R. THE ROOTS OF CRISIS IN NORTHERN LEBANON Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; 2014 Available from:


ANGNER, F. Skateboard urbanism Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; 2017 Available from: .


Reference and Inspiration

BEKDACHE, N., SAKSOUK, A., KASSIR, M., BASBOUS, M. AND EL MDAWAR, M. Play and the City: the Communal Making of Informal Football Fields in Beirut 2016 American University of Beruit.

Cedric Price


DAAR Architects Eyal Weisman Forensic Architecture

AL AYOUBI, B. Roadmap to Reconciliation in Tripoli 2017. Available from: resource/roadmap-reconciliation-tripoli-creating-inclusive-process-launching-communal-reconciliation Website SPILLOVER OF THE SYRIAN CIVIL WAR 2018 Available from:


Conflict & and the

Built Environment

Architecture of

& Peace Love and War in the Built Environment Tripoli

Architecture of Peace: Love and War in the Built Environment, Tripoli  

Master thesis project exploring the role of architecture in conflict and peace. The case study of Tripoli, Tebaneh and Jabal Mohsen area pro...

Architecture of Peace: Love and War in the Built Environment, Tripoli  

Master thesis project exploring the role of architecture in conflict and peace. The case study of Tripoli, Tebaneh and Jabal Mohsen area pro...