American Univesity of Beirut

Recovering Beirut

​​​​​​November 22​, 2020​

After the devastation that hit Beirut on August 4, 2020 with the Beirut Port explosion, the Lebanese capital witnessed the birth and action of a variety of initiatives, projects, and approaches aiming to aid, rebuild, and preserve. The Beirut Urban Lab, an interdisciplinary research space founded by faculty from AUB's Department of Architecture and Design in the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, mobilized to advocate for a people-centered, holistic recovery process that is inclusive, gender-sensitive, and environmentally sustainable. Their ultimate goal is no less than remedying sociological inequalities in urban spaces and reclaiming the public domain.

Building on expertise in urban policy advocacy, mapping, and post-war recovery, the Beirut Urban Lab initiated multiple initiatives to challenge the reconstruction approach that was being adopted post-blast—mostly focused on buildings and based on quantitative and physical assessment of damages—to take a more a holistic and inclusive recovery approach.

“The Observatory of the Reconstruction” is a platform of shared geolocalized information which helps support, coordinate, and monitor damage assessments and recovery efforts in the neighborhoods surrounding the Beirut Port. This is happening in partnership with the Spatial Studies Lab at Rice University and the Lebanon Open Map, while also coordinating with the Lebanese Order of Engineers and Architects, UNHCR, and several international NGOs. It will result in producing and disseminating maps, data analysis, and findings about ongoing reconstruction processes which seek to inform a more inclusive and just process of recovery.

“Neighborhood-Scale Recovery” is a bottom-up, inclusive, and people-centered recovery framework focusing on the neighborhoods that were severely affected by the blast including Mar Mikhael, Gemmayzeh and Jeitaoui, and piloted in Karantina. The work is being done at a neighborhood level. It relies on data collection and analysis that highlight economic networks and residents’ narratives related to heritage as well as social and urban interactions. The project includes capacity-building workshops that are community-based and multidisciplinary, and that aim to support and facilitate sharing information and having a common vision as well as participating in co-designing local recovery plans. Interventions within this project will integrate low-tech innovative green and sustainable systems for the advancement of healthy urban environments.
“Visioning the City in the Post-Blast Period” is gathering academics and professionals from around the world to contribute to visioning the city’s recovery. This exercise addresses connections across city districts and neighborhoods and with the port, the recovery of shared and open spaces, as well as a multiplicity of challenges such as the development of an inclusive housing sector, green infrastructure, and setting in place a transparent and inclusive institutional mechanism for the long-term ​development of the city.

​With all proceeds going to support the Beirut Urban Lab and its initiatives to rebuild Beirut after the August 4 blast, 60 international architecture firms have put artworks and signed drawings up for the Architects for Beirut auction, virtually hosted by the Design Miami fair. The auction, which will remain open until the end of November, features a lithography by David Adjaye rendered in 24-karat gold leaf, a one-off sketch by Renzo Piano, and a limited-edition sculpture designed by the late Zaha Hadid, among many other items.

Learn more about Beirut Urban Lab:
Read more about BUL projects in response to the Beirut blast: 

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