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How People Reclaimed Public Spaces in Beirut during the 2019 Lebanese Uprising

Abstract

Over the past years, popular uprisings across the Middle East continue to grow. Throughout these movements, public spaces have played a crucial role in allowing citizens to express their demands. Public spaces have brought people together, providing the space for citizens to assert their rights to freedom of speech and demanding basic rights.
Since 17 October 2019, Lebanon has been experiencing a similar civic movement. Expressions and manifestations of this movement have used underutilized public spaces across the country. For instance, in Beirut, the retrieve of public spaces has taken place on three levels:

  • Multi-purpose public spaces: where the protestors are reshaping the wide formal streets of Beirut Central District to active and lively urban spaces.
  • Open public spaces: such as Samir Kassir garden, which was once a meditative space, is now a vibrant social place.
  • Public urban facilities: such as the abandoned Egg[1] and the deteriorated Grand Theatre are being brought to life by becoming respectively a community centre and an observatory.

To date, the act of placemaking and the reclamation of public spaces has been observed throughout the 2019 Lebanese Uprising. It has reconfigured public spaces into ones of unity, thereby reuniting citizens of all ages, religions, gender and walks of life. Some see the uprising as a genuine end to the 1975 Civil War – a war that gave birth to religious, political, and social boundaries – by organically bringing together the country as one, demonstrating under one flag, the Lebanese flag.

 

[1] The Egg, an unfinished cinema built in the 1960s, is a landmark urban facility that was closed to the public for a long time. The Egg is located in the heart of the city near the former Civil War green zone line. Designed by Architect Joseph Philippe Karam, work on this unfinished structure started in the 1960s, interrupted by the Lebanese Civil War during which the building was abandoned and suffered major structural damage.

Published:
Pages:193 to 218
Section: Viewpoint
How to Cite
Sinno, W. (2020) “How People Reclaimed Public Spaces in Beirut during the 2019 Lebanese Uprising”, The Journal of Public Space, 5(1), pp. 193-218. doi: https://doi.org/10.32891/jps.v5i1.1258.

Author Biography

UN-Habitat Lebanon
Lebanon Lebanon

Wael Sinno graduated with a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the Lebanese American University’s School of Architecture and Design with honors in 2013. Sinno’s work has been exhibited on a number of occasions while his thesis project was published in the LAU magazine. A registered architect in Lebanon, Sinno has worked with Dar al Handasah, a leading international multidisciplinary project design consultancy, for 5 years on numerous projects ranging in scale from urban planning and design to infrastructure, transportation, and residential projects. Additionally, in 2014, Sinno worked on the renovation of traditional apartments in London with Orproject. In 2016, Sinno volunteered as an architect and urban planner to take part in public spaces projects for Syrian refugees living in temporary encampments. Afterwards, in 2018, Sinno received a Dutch Government scholarship to complete a postgraduate diploma in Green Cities for Eco-Efficiency at Erasmus University Rotterdam. After coming back from Rotterdam, Sinno joined the team at UN-HABITAT as the Area Coordinator for Beirut and Mount Lebanon to plan, manage, and develop humanitarian projects related to civil society and local authorities’ empowerment, urban analysis, community-led neighborhood upgrading projects, and public spaces.

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