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Workshop Liban

Philippe Poullaouec-Gonidec

Chapitre 3. À propos du Workshop_atelier/terrain

Remembering Saïda

Stefan Tischer

Texte intégral

1"It was heartbreaking if not obscene, to have to imagine here, a city..." With these words Rem Koolhass comments a air-view picture of the beautiful agricultural landscape south of Paris, in the Ile-de-France, where he was asked to take part in an international competition for the master plan of the Ville Nouvelle de Melun-Sénart in 1987. Although he pointed out this one phrase twenty years ago, the reality today remains the same and cities grow to the detriment of peripheral agriculture landscapes. Even though they can be key-testimonies of the entire culture of a nation, on the best value soils for agricultural production, or protected by good-will laws: speculation (spéculation foncière), but also urgent need of residential, commercial and infrastructural surfaces, will always and easily win the un-equal fight of priorities and hardly ever consider agricultural areas.

2For suburban developments, international competitions are rarely used to re-think the strategies of dealing with a preexisting landscape, to integrate its cultural and natural values, to conserve its characteristics in a new way of urban living (as Koolhas has proposed in the famous Melun-Sénart project). What has been observed towards peripheral landscape is that most of the cities of the "north" and the "south" adopt a neglectful attitude in letting investors and developers with their consulting firms built the periurban areas as they wish. Thereafter, by organizing design competitions for some buildings, parks, or urban furniture, they naively hope to qualify in this way the public space and the quality of life. Urban sprawl, étalement urban, abusivismo, suburbanisierung, no matter under wich name the phenomenon appears, no matter its regional particularities or its legal aspects, the key issue remains the same: it resumes in complete destruction of agricultural heritage and of the cultural landscape.

3In this context, the experience in the Al-Wastani – territory of Sidon-was exemplary, specific and unique at the same time.

4We had observed and understand, in a very clear way, the fundamental cultural dimension of that agrarian heritage landscape. Without that context, nor the medina nor the temple of Echmoun will make anymore sense or remain just-by-low protected areas. We had also witnessed, just few meters around, first metastases of the typical suburban carcinoma in between the orange trees and date palms: a situation that if persisting in the future will resume in the dying beauty. Observing that made us understood the lethal legal mechanism of the land's remembrement.

5Hopefully, the workshop was, as the previous one held in Marrakech, in November 2004, the place to react, to spray optimism in a situation that seems desperate. The nine projects realized show that there are possible ways of acting in changing the way of living, in building and in creating specific suburban landscapes without loosing all the heritage of the agrarian character. The strategies and designs proposed precise answers against what can presently be seen on the territory. The professional and human generosity of all our hosts helped and inspired us in personalizing the planning and designing, knowing for whose future and whose children we spent our energies, our visions, and our ideas.

6Many other impacts and events beside the urban sprawl risk to modify the Lebanon's landscape. Referring, once again, to Rem Koolhaas's words, as heartbreaking and obscene the landscape situation may seem to us, architects, landscape architects and urban designers; it definitely represent a real challenge for us to find answers that could be easily be implemented in the perspective of sustainable development. The WAT in Sidon was a significant opportunity for us to act in this way.

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© Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 2006

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