The Place That Remains


Topic 1: Contemporary landscape transformations:
Urban development and rural abandonment

The continuous agricultural decline is transforming the Lebanese territory. Intensive cultivation has now given place to fallow farmlands and abandoned fields, with altered ecosystems, abandoned terraces are being overtaken by a dense vegetation. Surprisingly, Lebanon is much greener today than a century ago. A “third landscape” is emerging, where spontaneous vegetation and re-naturalization of fallow farmlands are creating new undefined landscapes. Appreciation and valuation of these new landscapes are yet to be defined and articulated. Re-naturalization of the Lebanese territories opens the way to new perspectives, even though the status of abandonment leaves the territory with no other perspective other than its buildability or “build-ability”.

What are the alternative “abilities” of those spaces? How to define them, how to name them, in other ways beside their unbuilt status? How to look at them and how to inhabit them? How are they integrated in the new city?

Keywords: Urban ecology, third landscape, agrarian crisis, urban agriculture, renaturation, wastelands

Topic 2: Landscape heritage:
Cultural values and land management policies

Abandoned territories are waiting for new uses and new representations. The public sector and civil societies evaluate the territory according to different logics: The natural realm, the traditional agricultural landscape, the local development resource, the scenery, the touristic potential, the historical and cultural heritage, etc. These representations are sometimes far away from the reality of the territory. They are often in contradiction if not in conflict. Meanwhile, boundaries are shifting, landscape awareness is rising, and new uses and representations are taking place, even though the protection tools are evolving very slowly.

What are the drivers of the public policies? What constitutes “a heritage landscape” for the civil society? What are the values that deserve to be protected?  What are the legal tools, how do we evaluate their limits, horizons and means of implementation? How can they pave the way to an evolution of the mentalities?

Keywords: landscape heritage, cultural representations, preservation policies, regulation

Topic 3: Communal lands and public spaces:
Reality and expectations of usage and legislative framework

Communal lands, lands classification that are not private or semi-private, includes a wide range of ownership types: Machaa, Wakf, Public Domain, etc. What is communal is not always public. Most of the real estate remains the property of rural communities, religious communities or families, all of which constitute an important portion of the un-built.

In fact, the intricate status of the ownership removes the territory from the real estate market. But communal and/or public domains are subject to specific types of speculation and appropriation, different from the idea of spared and accessible spaces. For instance, large portions of religious wakf are being transformed into super malls, quarries or food courts. In order to be spared as public spaces, these properties need to be identified and reclaimed by the community.

Who owns what? How is it managed and what to expect from its management?

Keywords: public space, public property, public policy, machaa, wakf

Topic 4: Architecture of the ground:
The unbuilt within the building lot

In most cases, building regulations permit 30-80% of a plot for building, or the building footprint.  The regulatory “un-built” is meant to preserve green spaces, healthy environment and privacy. The regulation is supposed to generate virtuous practices. In fact, it creates a homogeneous urban landscape of small, scattered buildings. The “unbuilt” is often neglected, the management of the slope is forgotten and the accessibility reduced merely to cars. The setbacks are useless spaces with the exception of the street front. Whereas the vernacular architecture offers numerous examples of space settings that could be followed and adapted in order to make use of the regulatory un-built.

How can we imagine the regulatory un-built as an architecture of the ground? How can we make use of the interstitial spaces? How to inhabit them? How to transform them into meaningful spaces?

Keywords: Building regulation, urban morphology, urban gardens, vernacular architecture, footprint