Emerging Trends in Urbanism: The Beirut Post-War Experience

An Essay on a presentation made by Robert Saliba to Diwan al-Mimar on April 20, 2000

Prepared by Mohammad al-Asad and Majd Musa in association with Robert Saliba, 2001




 War-Period Planning

The 1975 - 1990 civil war presents the third period in Beirut's history to bring new models of planning to the city. This period produced two plans: a 1977 plan by the French consultant L'Atelier Parisien D'Urbanisme (APUR), and a 1983 plan by the regional consulting engineering firm Dar al-Handasah.

The 1977 plan (figure 2) was the first reconstruction plan for Beirut, and it followed a joint public-private approach to preservation. Since the damage done to Beirut's Central District by 1977 was not extensive, the 1977 plan preserved most of the city's existing urban fabric. It also proposed that the less damaged parts of the Central District would be reconstructed and rehabilitated by local property owners, and that the heavily damaged parts would be reconstructed by small-scale real estate corporations. The shares of such corporations would be distributed according to the previously existing legislation, which stipulates that real estate owners would hold 75% of the shares and the government would hold 25%.

The 1983 plan was the first plan to address Metropolitan Beirut. In fact, it is the only one to be conceived for Beirut until today that addresses the metropolitan level. The plan, which has not been adopted, concentrated on proposing sub-centers to be located around the city's central business district.

Saliba believes that the urban plans devised during the civil war period did not have any clear impact on the reconstruction of Beirut that took place in the 1990s. To him, no direct continuity can be found between either of the two war-period plans and the planning process in Beirut as it is taking place today.


 Post-War Period Planning

The last period of Beirut's history to be addressed by Saliba is the 1990 - 2000 post-war period, which, according to Saliba, has brought to Beirut the model of "post-modern planning." (11) Saliba identified three major events that have affected planning in Beirut during this period. The first event is the 1991 plan, which was the second reconstruction plan to be conceived for Beirut - the first being the 1977 plan discussed earlier. The 1991 plan, like the 1983 plan, was conceived by Dar al-Handasah. It was highly controversial and received harsh criticism, especially for its proposal for the creation of a single real estate company that would be responsible for the reconstruction of the Beirut city center. The second event to affect post-war planning in Beirut is the 1994 plan, which is the third reconstruction plan to be conceived for Beirut. In the 1994 plan, modifications were introduced to the 1991 plan that took into consideration the harsh opposition that arose against that plan. The 1994 plan was first designed by Dar al-Handasah and then presumed by Solidere. The third event is the 1989 Ta'if Agreement, the political agreement for the ending of the Lebanese civil war that was signed in the Saudi Arabian city of Ta'if. This agreement is being applied today and it probably will have an impact on Beirut's urban development.


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