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Calendar

Join our BUL Talk with Professor Saree Makdisi titled "Denial at the Limit of the Human," on Tueday May 7, 2024 at 6:00PM, Architecture Lecture Hall, AUB

The 20th Edition of the City Debates Conference ambitions to unravel some of the il/logics behind forces of rule and imagine alternative possibilities for more equitable and viable paths to contemporary urbanization.

The Palestine Land Studies Center, the Department of Landscape Design and Ecosystem Management, the Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies at AUB, and the Beirut Urban Lab invite you to a talk by Dr. Gary Field (University of California, San Diego) titled: Imprisoned! Voices and Images from Confinement Landscapes in Palestine

The Beirut Urban Lab, in collaboration with the Bobst-AUB Collaborative Initiative at AUB, invite you to a discussion of Mark Beissinger's book: The Revolutionary City: Urbanization and the Global Transformation of Rebellion on Monday, June 5, 2023 at 5:30 pm, at West Hall Auditorium A, AUB

Join us throughout June 2023 for a series of online presentations and discussions on Housing Uncertainties, Financial Crisis, and Social Protections with leading scholars and practitioners. Tuesdays 6, 13, 20 & 27 June 2023, at 5:00 pm Beirut Time (GMT +3)

The Beirut Urban Lab invites you to a discussion of Ali Kassem’s book Islamophobia and Lebanon: Visibly Muslim Women and Global Coloniality on Monday, May 29, 2023 at 5:00PM at the Architecture Lecture Hall, AUB

The Beirut Urban Lab invites you to a talk with Pierre France, Senior Researcher at the Orient-Institut Beirut, titled: “Twilights and the Weathering of State Dreams: A Social History of the ‘Director General’ in Lebanon (1960-2020)” on Monday May 22, 2023 at 5:00pm at the Architecture Lecture Hall, AUB

The Beirut Urban Lab invites you to a discussion of Nada Moumtaz’s book God’s Property: Islam, Charity, and the Modern State on Thursday May 4, 2023 at 6:00PM at the Architecture Lecture Hall, AUB

The Beirut Urban Lab invites you to a discussion of Maya Mikdashi's new book "Sextarianism: Sovereignty, Secularism, and the State in Lebanon" on Monday March 27, 2023 at 5:00PM at the Architecture Lecture Hall, AUB

The Beirut Urban Lab and the Graduate Programs in Urban Planning, Policy and Design (MUPP-MUD) in collaboration with Lincoln Institute of Land Policy invite you to City Debates 2023: Taming the Growth Machine, The Promises and Pitfalls of Land Value Capture

The Beirut Urban Lab & The Policy Initiative invite you to a public seminar titled "Disaster Governance: The Recovery of Beirut After the Port Blast" on Wednesday February 15, 2023, 3:30-7:00pm at the Architecture Lecture Hall, AUB

The Department of Architecture and Design and the Beirut Urban Lab are hosting a public lecture titled: Decolonising Modernism: Arab Anticolonial Politics in Graphic Design on Monday November 28, 2022 at 6:00pm at the Architecture Lecture Hall, AUB.

The Beirut Urban Lab, the MUPP/MUD Programs, and the Department of Architecture and Design at AUB are hosting a public lecture titled: "Detroit: Disaggregated Urbanism at A Time of Crisis" on Thursday, November 10 at 6:00pm, at the Architecture Lecture Hall, AUB

The Beirut Urban Lab invites you to a public presentation on “The Urban Recovery Strategy for Post-Blast Karantina,” on Thursday October 27, 2022 at 5:00pm, at the Architecture Lecture Hall, AUB.

City Debates 2022 will explore how planning can be (re)conceived and practiced in contexts of dysfunctional states and compounded crises, featuring the work of the AUB/MSFEA Beirut Urban Lab (BUL).

The Beirut Urban Lab is organizing an information session titled Historic Urban Landscapes as an Approach to Cultural Heritage Identification in Beirut Blast Damaged Areas on Thursday November 11th, 2021 (online)

The Beirut Urban Lab and the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs are co-organizing a webinar titled "Recovering Amidst Crises, Beirut's Port Blast One Year Later". This two-panel event will be held online on Thursday, August 12, 2021, 3:00 - 6:00PM

The Beirut Urban Lab, in partnership with ACTED and University College London (UCL), is launching an event for the rehabilitation project of Sahet Al Khodor in Karantina titled “الألفة تجمعنا”. Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021 at 5:00pm, Mashghara Street, Karantina

The Beirut Urban Lab invites you to its first book discussion featuring Mohamad Hafeda's book Negotiating Conflict in Lebanon: Bordering Practices in A Divided Beirut, on June 24, 2021 at 5:00pm (online)

Join us for a debate around the movie “Ramlet Beirut”, with Carol Mansour, Habib Battah, Yara Hamadeh, Nizar Saghieh, and Ali Darwish, moderated by Isabela Serhan. Wednesday, 11th of November, at 6:00PM.

This webinar is the third of a series titled Housing and Financialization in Times of Crisis, that presents public interventions by scholars and activists researching the impacts of the compounded effects of financialization and overlapping crises on the right to housing at the local, national, and global levels. Thursday, July 23, 2020 at 6:00pm (online)

This webinar is the first of a series titled Housing and Financialization in Times of Crisis, that presents public interventions by scholars and activists researching the impacts of the compounded effects of financialization and overlapping crises on the right to housing at the local, national, and global levels. Wednesday, July 8, 2020 at 6:00pm (online)

This webinar is the second of a series titled Housing and Financialization in Times of Crisis, that presents public interventions by scholars and activists researching the impacts of the compounded effects of financialization and overlapping crises on the right to housing at the local, national, and global levels. Wednesday, July 15, 2020 at 6:00pm (online)

City Debates 2019 is a conference that challenges dominant discourse by framing displacement as agency, the displaced as social capital, post-conflict urban environments as archives, and reconstructions as socio-spatial practices.

Events

The Beirut Urban Lab, in partnership with ACTED and UCL, launched an event for the rehabilitation project of Sahet Al Khodor in Karantina titled “الألفة تجمعنا”. The project is a component of a larger recovery framework articulated by Beirut Urban Lab in response to the August 4th port’s blast.

In the Fall of 2020, the Beirut Urban Lab is holding the second part of its webinar series under the theme of "Housing and Financialization in Times of Crisis." Watch videos of the webinars here.

In July 2020, the Beirut Urban Lab held the first part of its webinar series under the theme of "Housing and Financialization in Times of Crisis." Watch videos of the webinars here.

As part of the Urban Recovery Platform, the Capacity Building Program (CBP) will initiate conversations around the Arab region, which is marked by conflict and in need of cutting-edge methodologies to urban recovery. With participants from diverse backgrounds and interdisciplinary approaches to urban recovery, this workshop will share, transfer knowledge, and initiate ongoing conversations across boundaries and different terrains. This workshop is a pilot to be followed by many others through the CBP. The CBP aims, in the long run, to produce a network of partners and facilitate the exchange of experiences and knowledge transfer. It is poised to make a profound commitment towards a shift in research to embraces innovation, pedagogy, and knowledge dissemination in the service of urban recovery in the Arab region.

This project is a component of a research study led by the The AUB Asfari Institute (AI) on “Transnational Social Movements in the Arab Region.” Mona Harb has led the “Urban Rights Activism” track of this research study, and convened a workshop on the theme on July 4, 2019. The workshop gathered about thirty academics and activists from Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, and Lebanon who discussed: i) the histories and legacies of urban activism, the actors engaged in urban rights activism, their organizational and institutional setups, ii) their frames and strategies of action, as their communication and networks, iii) the urban as an opportunity for providing “real utopias” for activism and political change.

City Debates 2019 took place from April 1 to April 4, 2019 and challenged dominant discourse by framing displacement as agency, the displaced as social capital, post-conflict urban environments as archives, and reconstructions as socio-spatial practices.

News

Mona Fawaz was hosted by Afikra Podcast's host Mikey Muhanna to explore Beirut's alternative histories and the vision for people-centered cities. She shares insights into the projects and research undertaken by Beirut Urban Lab, along with her aspirations for the city's future.

As part of the Beirut Investigative Lab, a closed workshop was curated, entitled “(Un)Archiving the City: the Case of Beirut” and conducted on February 8th, 2024.

As part of the RC21 conference held in Santiago, Chile, next July 24-26, 2024, the Beirut Urban Lab is co-organizing Panel 9: South-South collaborations and dialogues: variegated epistemologies, knowledges, and experiences for postcolonial urban studies.

Watch the video recordings of all four sessions of the webinar series "Housing Uncertainties, Financial Crisis, and Social Protections" which were held in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity (HfH) through the Lebanon National Programme and the MENA Urban Housing Practitioners Hub (MENA-UHPH), the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) Lebanon Country Programme throughout June 2023.

How can we make our cities more livable when their most essential component, land, has become a global financial asset? Watch the Recap video and full playlist of City Debates 2023 conference, titled “Taming the Growth Machine: The Promises and Pitfalls of Land Value Capture.”

The Beirut Urban Lab, in collaboration with the Bobst-AUB Collaborative Initiative, held a book discussion of The Revolutionary City: Urbanization and the Global Transformation of Rebellion by Mark Beissinger (Princeton University).

The Beirut Urban Lab held a book discussion of Islamophobia and Lebanon: Visibly Muslim Women and Global Coloniality by Ali Kassem (National University of Singapore).

The Beirut Urban Lab (BUL) held a talk titled “Twilights and the Weathering of State Dreams: A Social History of the ‘Director General’ in Lebanon (1960-2020)” with Pierre France (Orient-Institut Beirut).

The Beirut Urban Lab (BUL), in collaboration with the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Media Studies and the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan Chair for Arabic and Islamic Studies, AUB and the Orient-Institut Beirut held a discussion of Nada Moumtaz’s ( University of Toronto) book titled: God’s Property: Islam, Charity, and the Modern State.

Mona Harb was hosted by Middle East Monitor (MEMO) to discuss urban politics in Beirut in light of compounded crises.

The Syria Urban Research Project (SUR Project) is organizing a 3-day workshop on October 27 – 29, 2023 titled: The Urban and Local Dimensions of Political Violence in Syria and the Middle East at MEDIT’s campus in Süleymaniye, Istanbul.

The Beirut Urban Lab (BUL) in collaboration with the Department of Sociology, Anthropology & Media Studies (SOAM) and the Women and Gender Studies Initiative at AUB held a discussion of Maya Mikdashi’s (Rutgers University) book titled: Sextarianism: Sovereignty, Secularism, and the State in Lebanon

The Beirut Urban Lab (BUL) and The Policy Initiative (TPI) held a public seminar on February 15, 2023, at the American University of Beirut, titled "Disaster Governance: the Recovery of Beirut after the Port Blast."

The Arab Political Science Network (APSN) and The Beirut Urban Lab (BUL) organized a webinar focusing on the latest research and developments in the study of urban politics.

Prof. Mona Harb discusses Lebanon’s politics in this two-part video-interview shot on the margins of Reset DOC’s 2022 Venice Seminars, “Between State and Civil Society: Who Protects Individual Liberties and Human Dignity?” to which she participated in May.

This animated explainer outlines the transformations in the production and exchange of the housing stock in Beirut after the Lebanese civil war, part of ongoing research by the Beirut Urban Lab on housing financialization.

Mona Harb participated at the Reset Dialogues on Civilizations seminars at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice in May 2022. She contributed to the Reset summer school through a presentation and a talk based on the article examining the governance of the pandemic in Lebanon.

The Beirut Urban Lab (BUL) participated at the UN Habitat’s first National Urban Forum (NUF1) in Lebanon titled “Towards a more sustainable and inclusive future for Lebanese cities” on March 23-24, 2022.

Mona Harb was hosted at Sobhia Najjar’s new participatory dialogue program “Maslaha ‘Amma”, produced by UNDP Accelerator Labs and UNWomen. The premiere episode titled “Connecting the Country Economically Through Urban Planning”, tackled various issues related to urbanization, decentralization, inequality, politics, and cities in Lebanon.

City Debates 2022 explored how planning can be (re)conceived and practiced in contexts of dysfunctional states and compounded crises, featuring the work of the Beirut Urban Lab.

The Beirut Urban Lab and the Order of Engineers and Architects in Beirut have agreed to share data and knowledge about Lebanon’s changing urbanization. The first pillar of this partnership is the Beirut Built Environment database, which maps all building developments within Municipal Beirut since 1996.

As a part of its mission to expand knowledge on the city’s urbanization in the Greater Beirut Area, the Beirut Urban Lab has updated its Beirut Built Environment Database platform with downloadable layers that include building attributes, municipal boundaries and topographic features.

The session aims to present the UNESCO Historical Urban Landscape approach and methodology and how it applies to Beirut within a framework of identified layers, values and attributes.

The Beirut Urban Lab and the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs hosted jointly a webinar titled "Recovering amidst Crises, Beirut's Port Blast One Year later" on August 12, 2021.

This book panel is the first of our Book Talks Series featuring roundtable discussions on urban issues that are of relevance to the lab's research scope and core values.

In this short documentary produced by Daraj Media a few months after the Beirut Port Blast, Mona Fawaz talks about the impact of militarized security, sectarianism, and the erasure of collective shared spaces in post-civil-war Beirut.

Mona Harb participated in a MetroTalk discussion, entitled “Ensuring the Commons in Fragile Contexts” organized by Metropolis and UNDP in March 2021.

The Beirut Urban Lab held a training which included a 2-day professional workshop at AUB on Dec 14-15, 2020 followed by a two-day field training. The workshop addressed the project and its objectives, research methods, research ethics, and tools for conducting research.

Read all the articles published about the Beirut Blast featuring the Lab's work, as well as op-eds signed by Lab members.

Mona Fawaz participated in the online debate organized by UNESCO titled "ResiliArt Lebanon: Bridging the Past and Future through Built Heritage", in the framework of its #LiBeirut initiative.

Mona Fawaz contributed with a presentation titled "Practicing the Public, Insights from Beirut" at the "Z-Axis 2020: You and Your Neighborhood" Lecture series, organized by Charles Correa Foundation for Education and Research in Human Settlements.

Mona Fawaz participated in a panel discussion about the Beirut explosion which shook the country on August 4th, 2020. In that webinar, speakers mapped out the humanitarian and urban landscape post-blast.

The Beirut Urban Lab is providing an up-to-date basemap of Municipal Beirut for all to download.

Howayda Al-Harithy spoke to Wired about the upcoming reconstruction efforts in Beirut. Harithy, who co-founded the AUB Reconstruction unit at MSFEA in the aftermath of the 2006 war, highlighted the importance of adopting a reconstruction plan that does not only focus on the physical.

Mona Fawaz contributed to the film Pandemic, Property, and Planning, directed by Sony Pellissery, Ben Davy, and Harvey Jacob, and produced by the Institute of Public Policy, National Law School of India University in Bengaluru, India.

Mona Harb spoke yesterday about "The Territories of COVID-19 Response in Lebanon," one of the Lab's ongoing research project in the brown bag series “Tackling the Long-Term Impact of COVID-19: Multidisciplinary Research Studies and Opportunities.”

Mona Harb contributed to a webinar titled The Right to Housing in COVID-19 Lockdown Times, organized by ISA RC47 Research Committee on Social Classes and Social Movements, and organized by Simone Tulumello and Guya Accornero from the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Lisbon.

Our Reflections

We are honouring the memory of our colleague, friend, and teacher, Professor Robert Saliba, by publishing one of the early and ground-breaking works which he conceived and coordinated, and which remains a hard-to-find yet incredibly insightful text. At a time when Beirut’s memory continues to be erased, the relevance of his work stands out.

Since the early 1990s, Habib Debs has been involved in nearly every battle to improve urban planning and design in Lebanon (and beyond), its standards, methods, and practices. A champion of cultural heritage protection, a gifted public space designer, and a leading figure in city planning, he will be remembered for his incredible talent, innumerable contributions, deep humanism, and his role as an engaged citizen fighting for a more just and secular country.

Following the Beirut Port Blast, the Reform, Recovery, and Reconstruction Framework "3RF" came to life. Sophie Bloemeke and Mona Harb examine three interconnected sets of structural constraints that limit the platform's performance.

One year after the Beirut port blast, we remain in awe at the social mobilization that continues to surround the people in the neighborhoods affected by the explosion. Over 12 months, and amidst devastating, economic, political, and health crises, city-dwellers—organized or not, working side by side with a large array of local and international organizations, are still struggling to repair homes, businesses, schools and hospitals and restore the viability of their city.

In line with our commitment to produce informed scholarship on urbanization and advocate socially-just and viable urban policies, we launch the Beirut Urban Lab’s Arabic website on the heels of the anniversary of the Nakba, the 73rd commemoration of the massacres that marked the establishment of the State of Israel, while Palestinians continue to count their dead and while the residents of Gaza, sieged for the past 13 years, discover the daunting destruction after 11 days of relentless military aggression.

Disaster is disorienting even when you know where you are. In the immediate aftermath of the Beirut port explosion last summer, it was impossible to know its reach. How far did the destruction extend? What were its boundaries?

As we write this short reflection, the Beirut Port’s August 4, 2020 explosion still runs deep shockwaves through every one of us. We are just beginning to absorb the unmeasurable losses that have fallen on our city and its people. Some 2,700 tons of Ammonium Nitrate were callously stored in a port hangar, in close vicinities of residential neighborhoods, for six years. It happened with the full knowledge of successive port authorities, customs’ officials, and many other public officials (and unofficials).

We launch the website of the Beirut Urban Lab at a time when everything around us is in peril. Thirty years after the presumed end of the civil war, Lebanon is drowning under the overlapping weights of a global health pandemic, a severe financial crisis, and the devastating failure to put in place a just and viable national recovery. Indeed, things are on the verge of total collapse.

Projects

This project aims to document and track the urbicide unfolding in Gaza since October 7, 2023 upon digitally constructing an updated layered map and 3D model of Gaza. It is also an act of archiving that counters the erasure taking place, reclaims what existed, forces its visibility, and resets where the conversation can begin.

Since 2016, the record of violent incidents in Palestine’s West Bank has increased at least tenfold. This monitor and the analysis it presents dispel the claim that this conflict is a “cycle of violence”, occurring on equal grounds, tribal in nature, and essentially endemic to the region. Countering such framings, this research galvanizes the urgent need for greater scrutiny of Israeli actions across all of Palestine.

Since October 7, the Middle East has occupied center stage in global media attention. As part of its effort to contribute to more just tomorrows through the production and dissemination of knowledge, the Beirut Urban Lab is producing a series of maps that document and provide analytical insights to the unfolding events.

This project pertains to the ‘Beirut Investigative Lab’, which is one of the four investigative labs in the larger project “Imagining Futures through Un/Archived Pasts.” The Imagining Futures project is headed by Principal Investigator Elena Isayev and funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). It aims to facilitate the opening-up and sensitive use of existing archives to create new ones. It also aims to articulate methods for egalitarian archival practices that respect multiple and divergent narratives. The Beirut Lab is headed by one of the Imagining Futures co-investigators, Howayda Al-Harithy.

In the three years following the Port Blast of 2020, how have the blast-affected neighborhoods changed? Who has returned, and what is the state of the recovery?

On this day, works on the Mar Mikhael Square project in the Gemmayzeh/Ashrafieh should have been completed, had it not been for the obstacles we faced in the past weeks, which ended last week in a sad and violent way. In this video, we will clarify some hidden facts to the public opinion, and we will confront the de facto powers with evidence which proves that this project was and will remain solely conceived for the benefit of the people, debunking all rumors that the project was forcibly imposed upon them and intended to displace them. We regret to let those who welcomed this project down, despite their blessings and high hopes. We thank them for supporting us right from the beginning and until we were forced to withdraw. We are always ready to resume work on this project, as long as the safety of all workers commissioned by the lab is secured.

In defense of public interest, 270 Professionals in urban, architecture, landscape, and transport endorse today the public square project in Mar-Mikhael/Gemmayzeh, countering misinformation about the project.

What’s going on in Mar Mikhael? In March 2023, a public space intervention began at the intersection of Gouraud, Pasteur, and Armenia streets. In this video, we discuss the project with residents and experts.

“Oral Narratives by the Residents of Karantina”, led by Howayda Al-Harithy at the Beirut Urban Lab, is one of the activities of the Beirut Investigative Lab, which is part of a larger collaborative project entitled “Imagining Futures Through Un/Archived Pasts”. The Lab aims to investigate two strands at the intersection of city and archives: ‘city as archives’ and ‘archiving the city’, leading to a hypothesis on ‘unarchiving the city.’

Starting from the premise that making rental information publicly accessible improves tenants’ conditions, AUB’s Beirut Urban Lab conceived the City of Tenants platform as a user-fed database and visualization tool that places information on existing rental arrangements in the city at the disposal of home seekers, tenants, researchers, and housing advocates. The platform hosts a map documenting actual rental conditions and prices recorded by tenants living in the city for tenants seeking adequate rent within Municipal Beirut.

Between October 2021 and March 2022, the Beirut Urban Lab (BUL) along with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (LILP) held a series of deliberative workshops, the Beirut Land Dialogues, bringing together stakeholders from the land sector. The premise was simple: land is a central node of the ongoing economic collapse and any recovery strategy will have to conceptualize its role.

The Beirut Urban Lab is launching a platform that documents the processes and mechanisms that generate housing precarity in today’s Beirut. The platform seeks to make visible patterns of deprivation, overcrowding, unaffordability, displacement, eviction, and foreclosure that characterize the housing conditions of Beirut’s social majorities. Through data collection, analysis, and visualization, it places these narratives at the disposal of activists, researchers, journalists, and city-dwellers in order to emphasize the urgency of debating, denouncing, and resisting the devastating impacts of neoliberal urban policies and real-estate speculation in today’s cities.

The Beirut Urban Lab (BUL) and The Policy Initiative (TPI) have partnered to investigate the governance modalities and dynamics structuring the urban recovery process in the aftermath of the criminal Beirut Port Blast of August 4, 2020.

Between March and September 2021, BUL researchers identified around 80 NGOs that participated in shelter repair within the neighborhoods severely affected by the August 2020 port blast. The data and findings are presented through a recent mapping output on the Beirut Urban Observatory.

The BUL team, led by Professor Howayda Al-Harithy has completed and submitted the UNESCO- commissioned study entitled 'Identifying Cultural Heritage Attributes in Beirut Blast Damaged Areas.' The aim of the project was to map the urban heritage attributes and identify the key attributes of modern heritage in the selected historic quarters of Beirut most impacted by the explosion of 2020.

The Beirut Urban Lab launched the Beirut Urban Observatory in August 2021, one year after the Port Blast. As a platform of shared geolocalized data, the Observatory builds on the Beirut Built Environment Database (BBED).

As part of its support of the Beirut Blast recovery efforts, the Beirut Urban Lab developed rapid studies of six neighborhoods that were severely affected by the Beirut Port explosion of August 4, 2020; these are: Karantina, Mar Mikhael, Geitawi, Badawi, Bachoura, and Karm el-Zeitoun (Fig. 1). The reports sought to locate the damage inflicted by the blast and ongoing repair works within a better understanding of the urban trends affecting each of the neighborhoods at the time of the port explosion. The research was conducted in partnership with ACTED and was funded by UNHCR.

Immediately after the Beirut Port Explosion that occurred on August 4th 2020, the Beirut Urban Lab (BUL) identified the importance of streamlining and coordinating needs and damage assessments. Given the multiplicity of actors involved and the lack of predesigned strategy, the first effort was to unify the platform on which data was being collected.

This project targets the understudied rural periphery of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in north-eastern Iraq, one of the oldest continuously inhabited landscapes in the world. The Erbil Greenbelt Project (2009-2010) highlighted the plight of rural communities that have endured decades of social and economic marginalization, addressing their plight within an expansive framework for community-centered development.

The times of Covid-19 are times of crisis and, like any crisis, these times are most often used as an opportunity for political actors to reposition themselves. At the Beirut Urban Lab, we chose to look at how, in the context of Lebanon, and in the aftermath of the October uprisings, the response to the Covid-19 impacts and reconfigures the political geography landscape.

Building on its experiences in urban policy advocacy, mapping, and post-war reconstruction studies, the Beirut Urban Lab initiated multiple interventions that challenge the dominant framework of post-blast reconstruction and redefine it along the lines of a holistic and inclusive recovery.

The Beirut Built Environment Database is a platform gathering geolocalised social, environmental, and economic information on building activity in the Greater Beirut Area.

Beirut is a dense city with high levels of urbanization, where open public spaces are scant, poorly designed, and ill-managed. The commodification of land has transformed neighborhoods in drastic ways at the expense of public life. Yet, neighborhoods incorporate many vacant properties—built, unbuilt, unbuildable, public, private—that hold valuable opportunities for rethinking public life in the city. How can an engaged urban practice reactivate spatial practices and public life in Beirut’s neighborhoods?

This study provides a holistic overview of the transformations in the production and exchange of Beirut’s housing stock in the Lebanese post-civil war period.

Levant Carta | Beirut is an online mapping tool that is currently being developed as a collaborative project between the Beirut Urban Lab and the Humanities Research Center at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Levant Carta | Beirut tracks urban evolution, archives social and urban histories, and crosses them with maps and media. In the process, it creates a comprehensive urban archive of Beirut, the first and only one of its kind.

Juxtaposed against a dominant historiography that describes Beirut’s growth as a process originating from a central physical or administrative core, this project brings to light narratives taken from the city’s peripheries that together posit a revised vision of the city’s production: one where informal settlements, refugee camps, and old villages appear as laboratories of city making.

Militarized security is perhaps one of the most defining aspects of Beirut’s public and shared spaces. Not only does it substantially influence everyday life, but it also reorganizes the city’s multiple publics, enforcing numerous forms of restrictions on some of the city’s users, while facilitating the fluid circulation of others. A closer look at Beirut’s militarized security reveals that what reads as a homogenous layer is in reality composed of heavily fragmented units that are managed by overlapping and decentralized systems that often blur the boundaries between public and private realms. Through the years, we have conducted several projects exploring the deployment of security, its effects on the reorganization of the urban geography of the city, and its repercussions on the daily practices of various groups of city users.

As they inhabit urban quarters, refugees transform neighborhoods, appropriating blocks that gradually come to reflect their modes of dwelling and socialization.

By mapping the trajectories and networks of landmarks on which Syrian food delivery drivers rely to navigate the city, this research translates the challenge of studying “refugee urbanization” into an actual demonstration of the competence and performance of these urban actors as they learn and navigate Beirut.

A prevailing perception is that Syrians are establishing businesses and competing with the Lebanese, leading to violent reactions on the part of host communities. This study seeks to debunk the reductionist framing of ‘the Syrian refugee’ as a burden, and showcase the economic contribution that some Syrian entrepreneurs have been making to urban neighbourhoods.

This research and learning center focus on inclusive growth and prosperity, particularly in Lebanon, which faces significant challenges due to the influx of over a million Syrian refugees since 2011.

POWER2YOUTH was a project funded under the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme (2014-17) to (1) explore the root causes and complex dynamics of youth exclusion and inclusion in the labour market and civic/political life; (2) to investigate the potentially transformative effect of youth agency and (3) to develop progressive and youth-informed policy guidelines for national and supranational policy-makers. Organized around 9 work packages, the project engaged 13 partner institutions from Europe and the SEM region, including 6 case study countries (Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Occupied Palestinian Territories and Turkey), where original qualitative and quantitative data was collected from a range of sources (e.g. public statistics, public documents and academic studies, focus groups and interviews with young people and youth-based CSOs, and large-scale nation-wide surveys including a total of 7,573 young people between the ages of 15 and 29).

Publications

As urban housing vacancy soars in heavily financialized cities across the globe, its detrimental effects—housing crises, interrupted economic cycles, and empty public coffers—are widely felt worldwide. This is the case in Beirut, where a severe housing vacancy crisis has soared for over a decade.

Using critical disaster studies and state theory, the authors assess the disaster aid platform named Lebanon Reconstruction, Reform and Recovery Framework (3RF) that was put in place by international donors in the aftermath of the Beirut Port Blast in August 2020, in order to examine the effectiveness of its inclusive decision-making architecture, as well as its institutional building and legislative reform efforts.

On August 4, 2020, a huge blast at the Port of Beirut, Lebanon, devastated the city and severely impacted people’s lives. Accordingly, the urban recovery team at the Beirut Urban Lab in the American University of Beirut immediately mobilized its resources and expertise to respond to the blast.

Despite the international aid and reform pledges, Lebanon's ruling class has a history of failing to deliver meaningful change. The Reform, Recovery, and Reconstruction Framework (3RF) is no exception.

The Beirut Urban Lab conducted a two-year study entitled “The Urban Recovery Strategy for Post-Blast Karantina”, led by Howayda Al-Harithy and funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Lebanon's political class is determined to erase yet another one of its crime scenes: the site of the 2020 Beirut port explosion that rocked the city and damaged at least a third of its buildings, killing hundreds of people and wounding thousands more. The Lebanese government is planning to demolish the port's gutted grain silos, the only structure left standing near the epicenter of the blast, claiming they are at risk of collapse.

In this paper, published with the Middle East Law and Governance Journal, Mona Harb, Mona Fawaz, Ahmad Gharbieh and Louna Dayekh argue "that the governance of the pandemic in Lebanon reveals tensions between powerful political parties, weakened public agencies, as well as multiple solidarity groups with diverging aspirations, colliding over the imagined future of the country."

Urban Recovery: Intersecting Displacement with Post War Reconstruction calls for re-conceptualizing urban recovery by exploring the intersection of reconstruction and displacement in volatile contexts in the Global South. It is an in-depth exploration of the spatial, social, artistic, and political conditions that promote urban recovery.

This article focuses on the process of hosting Syrian refugees in Saida in Southern Lebanon after 2011. It explores service provisions and the two dominant types of housing for Syrian refugees: collective shelters and single apartments within local neighbourhoods.

As Lebanon is undergoing one of the worst economic and financial collapses in the world, one that was caused by the deliberate inaction1 of its rulers, it is important to tell the story of Lebanese youth. With a focus on their diverse attitudes and on their political mobilization efforts over the past decade, this study seeks to shed light on some of the reasons that could explain the challenges constraining youth-led political organizations from introducing much-needed political change.

This Policy Brief, published by the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies (LCPS), maps patterns of city settlement in three mid-size localities in Lebanon: Zahle, Saida, and Halba. The authors identify three types of urban geometries that exist in each city in varying degrees: neighborhood densification, housing compounds, and tented settlements. These were predominantly created through ad-hoc, fragmented measures adopted by an array of actors such as international organizations, municipal councils, informal service providers, and local organizations.

This article investigates the impact of the Syrian displacement on the economic and urban transformation in Ouzaii, a major informal settlement in the southern suburbs of Beirut that is characterised by a complex socio-political structure.

In this essay published in APSA (American Political Science Association) MENA Politics Newsletter, Ahmad Gharbieh reflects on the role practice plays in the delineation of neighborhoods and the defining of urban boundaries by examining how different areas of Beirut are lived/perceived and how such socio-spatialities could be represented across digital visualization tools.

In this research paper published by the Arab Center Washington DC, Mona Fawaz and Mona Harb argue that excluding the state from Beirut’s recovery process, a ubiquitous demand among mobilized activists, organized groups, and political initiatives, has its consequences on the long term.

Beirut is a dense and rapidly urbanizing city, with scant and ill-managed formal public spaces: these consist of 21 parks and gardens with an area amounting to less than 1 m2 per resident, a seaside Corniche, and a few publicly accessible coastal sites. Given Lebanon’s current socio-economic and political crises, grand plans and projects are impossible to implement. Yet, as planners aware of the crucial importance of green open and inclusive public spaces, we need to advocate their presence in the city and work with what is available rather than what should be available.

The blast on August 4, 2020, in the port area of Beirut devastated lives and livelihoods and disrupted vibrant socio-spatial practices that used to unfold in many shared spaces within neighborhoods by the port. While Beirut is a dense city with high levels of urbanization and scant open public spaces that are poorly designed and ill managed, the city still boasts a rich and vibrant public life, albeit one that is dwindling slowly.

Reactions to the explosion of the Port of Beirut have sounded the alarm of permanent displacement, and fingers are already pointing to predatory real-estate developments that could accelerate the process. On September 30, parliament passed measures that it claims will halt the land grabbing of properties owned by residents affected by the blast. But what is fundamentally missing from this seemingly caring narrative is the history of large waves of evictions over many decades in districts such as Geitawi, Mar Mikhael, or Gemmayzeh. Rather than an interruption or a new turn in the occupation of the neighborhoods forming these districts, we argue that the blast should be seen as a disruption that will intensify the effects of the already-in-place mechanisms, pushing away a larger number of those who have worked or lived in the neighborhoods surrounding the port.

One year from the start of the October 17 uprising, LCPS asks social scientists with leading or active roles in the uprising to look back on the October 17 revolution and what lies ahead. Questions, which were released in a series of articles, revolved around the main accomplishments, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the August 4 explosion on mobilization, as well as challenges and opportunities ahead. Mona Fawaz, along with Ogarit Younan, Rania Masri, Nizar Hassan, Sana Tannoury-Karam, Carmen Geha, and Lynn Comaty, contributed with her answers in this piece. This project is co-organized with social psychologist and LCPS fellow Dr. Rim Saab.

In the aftermath of violent acts of rupture, cities endure erasures of place and memory and disruptions to socio-economic and cultural practices. Mending emotional, spiritual, and socio-cultural connections becomes critical for any process of recovery — with cultural heritage, that includes sites of social significance and shared memories — serving as a catalyst for a successful recovery process. In this sense, cultural recovery operates beyond the limited definition of heritage tied to the physical and historical and goes beyond the urgent recovery process that is people-centered, heritage-led, and place-specific to address post-disaster basic needs. Crucially, it attends to socio-spatial practices that are part of the intangible heritage, and rebuilds, over the long-term, undermined cultural practices, social ties, and economic networks. Such industrial neighborhoods and informal settlements as Karantina, characterized by a deep social, cultural, and economic history, are therefore as deserving as any other neighborhood of a recovery process that is people-centered, heritage-led, and place-specific.

Looking forward, the emergency is for restoring any element of normalcy in the districts and empowering neighborhood dwellers’ return. This will be imperative for the city to reignite life and avoid seeing more of its quarters hijacked by real estate interests, as feared by many of the residents I was able to talk to.

The expansion of Beirut towards its South-Western suburbs during the 1950s was justified by the desire to plan future urban development within the modernist ideals of geometric order and scientific ideals. In practice, however, the expansion also coincides with the growing role of Beirut as a beach-tourism magnet and a hub for the circulation of regional capital, both serving specific interests.

As the Lebanese look for options to reignite a failing economy, Mona Fawaz and Abir Zaatari argue in this brief that property taxation needs to be used to influence social policy and economic decisions positively.

Mona Harb, Sami Atallah and Mohamad Diab authored an article in the most recent Mediterranean Politics journal, laying down their adoption of mixed methods to fully grasp the complex subjectivities of Lebanese youth.

This paper, commissioned by The Asfari Institute at AUB and edited by Mona Harb uncovers four domains of mobilization that have been unraveling over the past decade in Lebanon, and have been playing significant roles in the series of protests and uprisings that characterize the scene of oppositional politics in the country. These include civil and political rights, urban rights, women’s rights, and GSBM rights (Gender, Sexuality, Bodily and Marginalized Groups). Each domain is investigated according to a common set of questions. Authors were invited to map actors organized in political and/or social action (such as movements, civil society organizations, unions, and other forms of collective action). They conducted a descriptive analysis of approaches and methods of advocacy, as well as of key event(s) that impacted the policy domain studied, in addition to examining how power configurations were produced. Moreover, patterns of structure, tactics of collective action, as well as types of issue framing were investigated.

Aleppo Taht Al-Qalaa documents the work of students in the URDS 602 studio offered by the graduate program in urban design at the American University of Beirut in the Spring of 2017-18 under the direction of Howayda Al-Harithy and Jala Makhzoumi. The book features the students' innovative, feasible, concrete spatial strategies for recovery in Aleppo through the reconstruction and reconfiguration of public space in post war times, particularly those charged with cultural heritage and focused in the area of Taht al Qalaa.

More than five years into the “refugee crisis,” popular discourses and media debates in Lebanon still lack the vocabulary to describe the impressive competence of individuals and groups fleeing a war-torn country and the resilience they have demonstrated in facing difficult residency in nearby host countries. In this collection of essays, scholars, writers, designers and artists have set out to contest the stereotypical representation of Syrian refugees as destitute, powerless and passive aid recipients.

Beirut Zone 10 ‘s vision is for Beirut’s coast and its seafront to act as the city’s main landmark, the symbolic image that makes the unique identity of Lebanon’s capital. This translates into a commitment for Beirut’s coast as a continuous, accessible, and shared open space that acts as an economic enabler for the entire city while protecting its cultural, social, and ecological values for current and future generations.

This collection of essays and maps digs beyond the apparent dichotomies between public and private spaces in an effort to understand what makes public space such a complex minefield in Lebanon.

Winner of the British-Kuwait Friendship Society 2014 book prize, and cited as one of Choice Reviews’ 2014 outstanding academic titles, Leisurely Islam is a book co-authored by Mona Harb and Lara Deeb that investigates how South Beirut has become a vibrant leisure destination with a plethora of cafés and restaurants that cater to the young, fashionable, and pious. It explores what effects have these establishments had on the moral norms, spatial practices, and urban experiences of this Lebanese community? From the diverse voices of young Shi’i Muslims searching for places to hang out, to the Hezbollah officials who want this media-savvy generation to be more politically involved, to the religious leaders worried that Lebanese youth are losing their moral compasses, Leisurely Islam provides a sophisticated and original look at leisure in the Lebanese capital.

After the ceasefire, a group of architects and planners from the American University of Beirut formed the Reconstruction Unit to help in the recovery process and in rebuilding the lives of those affected by the 2006 war in Lebanon. They were interested in processes that would be more grassroots based; that would involve participatory procedures; and that would bring to the table issues like identity, memory, and heritage; aspects that are often forgotten in the haste of urgently needed reconstruction. Here, a series of case studies documenting the work of the Unit discusses the lessons to be learned from the experiences of Lebanon after the July War, and suggests how those lessons might be applied elsewhere. The cases are diverse in terms of scale, type of intervention, methods, and approaches to the situation on the ground. Critical issues such as community participation, heritage protection, damage assessment and compensation policies, the role of the state, and capacity building are explored and the success and failures assessed.

In the aftermath of the Israeli war, a group of Lebanese architects, planners, and engineers came together to envision alternatives for the rebuilding of Haret Hreik. They formed the Haret Hreik Task Team, a sub-unit of the Reconstruction Unit in the Department of Architecture and Design at the American University of Beirut (AUB). After several failed attempts to engage local stakeholders in a public debate about the reconstruction of Haret Hreik, they organized an intensive four day design charrette that they hosted at AUB from January 17-20, 2007. The results of this exercise are presented in this book and consist primarily of three sets of maps that show existing conditions, analyze neighborhood patterns, and suggest interventions in reconstruction.