Historically, the port of Beirut and its neighboring district Karantina have been detached from the city life, never sharing in the vibrant, healthy network lying just beyond Charles Helou Highway. Those rare connection points or portals, that do exist, remain undeveloped. It is for this reason we saw all that transpired on August 4th 2020, for lack of infrastructure, transparency and accessibility. Our proposal aims simply to focus the gaze of those in charge of revitalizing the port on these issues, by suggesting a network of spaces first and foremost, which through their public nature, landscape and location, allow for urbanity to flourish in and around them - and in that sense render Beirut into what it was always meant to be - the Borderless City.
Our project centres on the concept of void and sensitive addition, resulting in an approach that considers what was left behind, what was damaged and what was deemed useless. The port may seem like a battlefield at times, or a desert at others. How to fill that void in a way that does not encroach on people‘s lives - does not result in a blinding skyscraper or an oddly shaped stadium occupying the pier and denying it from being a part of the quotidian. Recurring elements throughout the port and Karantina help bind them together, and also fulfill measures of energy conservation. Pergolas to provide shade, water surfaces that cool off their surroundings, water towers that lend themselves as viewing platforms and retaining walls built from spare rubble and mesh to replace their damaged concrete counterparts. Additionally, our proposal factors in public transportation and pedestrian zoning, education and physical activity, health, belief and work-life balance, by aiming for a final vision that refrains from overcommercialization, while being wary of the privatized, industrial port it once was and could very well return to being.
The core approach of this project centres on the development and sensible distribution of public space, and subsequent analysis of existing and possible block and infrastructural typologies of the region. A negative space plan based on the concept of bricolage through process. By including important locations in need of revival (ie. the train station, waste plant and fish market), reconnecting existing parks and squares by means of green space (belt along the former coast line, park as a soft barrier to heavy port industry), and defining in advance what pedestrian, cyclist and public transport routes were required, a more clear cut series of plans revealed what spacial, demographical / economic, infrastructural and ecological measures could be taken in order for the status quo to be broken. A deeper analysis of the typical Karantina block would highlight, in contrast to the more developed neighborhoods of Ashrafieh or Gemmayze for example, the holes in its urban fabric, which also helped inform the idea of a ‘typical port block‘, with all its unique requirements factored in. Although the intent of this proposal is by no means to design the port brick by brick, a tangible masterplan details the built environment following principles of palimpsest; a use of the existing and extension where there is a lack of public, residential or industrial diversity.