American University of Beirut

Narrating Ras Beirut Through Its Tenants Stories

​ راس بيروت: مرويّات عن السكن في المدينة​


Over the past 150 years, Ras Beirut has changed from an agricultural community to a dense urban neighborhood. During the Lebanese Civil War, the neighborhood sustained damage and residents fled it to other sections of the city. Yet one of the distinctive features of Ras Beirut remains its social, economic and cultural diversity. This diversity is however increasingly threatened by rapid urban transformations. The neighborhood's run-down residential buildings are being demolished, and their longtime residents displaced and replaced by high-end luxury towers catering for a global financial elite.

“Narrating Ras Beirut through Its Tenants Stories" is a multi-disciplinary participatory project organized by Public Works Studio in collaboration with the AUB Neighborhood Initiative. It aimed to study the impacts of market-driven developments and policies on residential rights in Beirut. These policies have caused social and spatial injustices, resulting in the displacement of many low and middle-income families. The main focus of this project was the ongoing attempt to evict residents living in the city under rent control, whether by a new rent law (issued in 2014) or by de-facto market procedures. The workshop investigates the ways in which Ras Beirut's old residents vest not only over their homes but also over their neighborhoods, recasting the debate on rent laws and spatial justice to offer new perspectives to urban policies.

This study/workshop focused on the Hamra district in Ras Beirut, a residential and commercial hub that is increasingly reinstating itself as a vibrant commercial and leisure center. Although substantial research has been conducted on Ras Beirut and Hamra, the workshop aimed to derive stories and data related specifically to housing and tenancy in this area.

The workshop was concluded with a series of presentations by the participants which aimed to answer the following questions, 'How are longtime residents being affected by this wave of urban change? How are they resisting, especially old tenants among them? Who is being evicted and how? How are the prices of new rent affecting diversity in the area?' 

Finally, an open public discussion was organized at Dar al Mussawir - دار المصوّر about the evolving residential scene and the challenges facing the right to housing in Ras Beirut. The discussion took place on Thursday, January 25, 2018, which included a presentation on the major residential issues and urban changes that were surveyed in Ras Beirut, and the booklet distribution with the research results of the workshop conducted by Public Works with 12 participants on the specific study area in Ras Beirut.

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