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What Happened to the Public Spaces of the Arab World?

From Colonisation to Revolution: The Case of Lebanon

Abstract

Public spaces were first introduced into the Arab world through colonial authorities in a vision to “modernise” what was seen as “oriental cities”, since the 19th century until today. However, this process was brought under severe political, social, cultural, and economic circumstances. In the due date, the imported western models of public spaces were superimposed on the existing fabric, dismissing any of those components, which left public spaces to their tragic fate in the Arab cities. In that context, they were also snatched from their democratic and civic nature under the dictator regimes. The paper will be divided into five sections, starting with a look at the historical evolution of public spaces under colonisation, then it will take Beirut, Lebanon as a case study; a city that was torn by war and patched by western ideologies following the m­odernist movement. This will take a critical approach by looking at several players in the process of implementation of public spaces in Beirut. One of these being Solidere and its reconstruction plans of the city centre of Beirut after the civil war (1975-1990), which was heavily influenced by the western models of public spaces. In the third section, a comparative study between Piazza del Duomo in Italy and Martyrs’ Square in Lebanon will set a wider understanding of the product of this evolution. Eventually, the paper will analyse the impact of the Lebanese revolution (2019) on reclaiming the public spaces for the people, similar to other revolutions in the Arab world that date back to 2011, through examples like “The Egg”, Samir Kassir Garden and Martyr’s Square. By the hands of the revolutions, the people were able to domesticate what did not reflect their identity, culture or needs, and transform them into inclusive spaces for everyone from all races, classes and backgrounds as an opportunity to set a collective vision for the future. By that, a look and a recommendation for the future of the public spaces in the Arab world, especially Beirut, will take place through a concluding section.  

Published:
Pages:203 to 214
Section: Society
How to Cite
Fouani, T. (2021) “What Happened to the Public Spaces of the Arab World?”, The Journal of Public Space, 6(1), pp. 203-214. doi: https://doi.org/10.32891/jps.v6i1.1308.

Author Biography

Lebanon Lebanon

Tarek Fouani holds a bachelor degree in Architecture from the Lebanese American University in Lebanon and a Master in Urban Design from University of Strathclyde in Scotland. Moreover, he holds a master degree in Management from Catholic University in Milan. He has a diverse 3-year work experience in architecture and urban design: at Ronald Baz architects as a junior architect; at Maroun Daccache Architettura where he worked on an urban research and analysis of Karm Al Zeitoun in Beirut and introduced an urban intervention; currently he is a spatial analyst and architect at PenguinCube where he works on wayfinding and user experience strategies for large scale and urban projects. He is aiming to continue his education into a PhD to focus fully on research related to urbanism and public spaces.

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