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Atlas of Lebanon

Part 7 - Territorial Governance, Urban and National Planning

The downside: Patchwork and inertia

Jihad Farah et BouchraTohme

Texte intégral

1The decline of centralized State action results in a profusion of local development projects. However, the competition between various actors sometimes leads to an uncoordinated juxtaposition of projects as well as inertia. The cases of Bourj Hammoud and the controversial projects for the International Tripoli Fair illustrate this type of situation.

An urban patchwork: Bourj Hammoud

2At the heart of Beirut, the municipality of Bourj Hammoud has been subject to many large-scale projects for the past twenty years, led by actors who have had divergent, even opposed, objectives. The connection of Beirut, including the port, to the southern, northern and eastern suburbs through highways represents a major issue. The overpass which crosses this densely populated and working-class neighborhood illustrates the primacy of a logic focusing on mobility over the urban character of this suburb. The planned waste treatment plant and the water treatment plant reveal a similar functionalist logic of land availability and metropolitan-scale flows. On the contrary, the municipality favors meeting the needs of its original mostly Armenian population. The municipality multiplies facilities, such as the municipal stadium, and leads ambitious projects, like the commercial and residential complex located on the site of the historic refugee camp of Sandjak. In the North of Bourj Hammoud, two large-scale projects are aimed at restructuring this part of the coastal areas located at the eastern exit of the capital: the reorganization of the port and Linor. They are conceived and discussed on a national scale in terms of balance between the political and community forces and involve some of the main actors of the Lebanese political system. The “Solar Snake” of the Ministry of Energy and its thousands of photovoltaic panels installed over the Beirut River illustrates the will to reform the dysfunctional electricity sector. However, this display comes at the price of producing an object totally disconnected from its environment.

Figure VII-21: Major projects located in the territory of Bourj Hammoud and its nearby surroundings

Figure VII-21: Major projects located in the territory of Bourj Hammoud and its nearby surroundings

Inertia: Tripoli International Fair

3Symbol of the political voluntarism of the beginning of the 1960s, designed by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, the Tripoli International Fair covers an area of more than 70 ha. Aimed at revitalizing the second Lebanese city, cut from its Syrian hinterland that had made its prosperity, this fair has yet never functioned as planned. It currently hinders the connection of the city with the sea. Since the 1990s, including since the departure of the Syrian army that used it as barracks, multiple proposals have been made for the repurposing of this strategic site, located in a city that is particularly affected by poverty. Some want to use this location for projects conceived as driving forces for the city’s economy. The Administration Board of Tripoli’s Fair (ABTF) has made several such proposals. For some local intellectuals and academics, the fair is above all an element belonging to the city’s heritage, which has to be acknowledged and preserved as such. Eventually, other actors want to take advantage of this available land to build the facilities deemed necessary to the city’s development. This multiplication of controversies mostly reveals the fragmentation of the actors along with the absence of shared visions for the city’s development, and currently leads to inertia.

Figure VII-22: The projects proposed for the Tripoli International Fair and the involved actors

Figure VII-22: The projects proposed for the Tripoli International Fair and the involved actors

© Presses de l’Ifpo, 2019

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