Urban Design and Landscape

Port of Beirut: Public re-claimation of the waterfront

Ruben Epping
Lund University
Germany

Project idea

After the devastating explosion at the port in August 2020, the city of Beirut was left with immense humanitarian and material damage. Most of the port and its surroundings have been destroyed and are waiting for recovery and redevelopment since.
The catastrophe started a discussion about the future of the port and offered the opportunity of claiming the land closest to the city center for urban development.
To achieve a well accepted and sustainable new district, respecting the location as a site for memorial and connecting it to the existing neighborhoods as well as to the city center is of high importance. At the same time the focus should lay on the needs of the citizens of present and future Beirut.
The proposal presents a possible outcome of a development that could be partly accompanied and supervised by representatives of the public. Especially the development of the memorial site to a park should be based on a public participation process. By involving the citizens, the acceptance of the new district can be increased and the emotional relevance of the site respected.

Project description

The proposed port district consists of several public zones as well as residential neighborhoods. It extends the city center and connects the city to the sea. Overall it has a pedestrian focus and restricts car access to selected streets and underground parking units, leaving the public spaces, residential areas and the waterfront mostly car free.

The proposal responds to four contemporary challenges of urban planning:

Accessibility of the waterfront:
The proceeding privatization of Beirut’s coastline reduces public access and usability of the waterfront and affects the quality of the public life. By offering accessible and usable public spaces along the waterfront, the proposal for the port secures a 3.3 kilometer long promenade for the citizens with numerous interaction points with the water, making the sea not only visible but tangible.

Public green spaces:
The port development offers the chance to increase the number of public green spaces accessible to the citizens resulting in a more healthy and pleasant outdoor climate. The visual quality as well as the benefits of vegetation for the micro-climate encourage people to make use of public spaces even in the hottest months of the year, increasing the visibility of public life in Beirut. The proposal offers several major parks along the water and smaller vegetated spaces along the streets in the build up areas.

Connection to the existing city:
The design of the new port district is solely based on the port's surroundings. It mediates between the grown urban landscape of the historic neighborhoods in the south of the port and the latest development of the Central Business District and Waterfront District. The proposal picks up the street dimensions and great variety of scales and styles from the neighborhoods around the port, creating a similar pedestrian experience as the citizens are used to and enhancing mental accessibility of the site. It reconnects the city to the water through several corridors and has a strong focus on pedestrian experience and accessibility.

Microclimate:
The proposal presents several strategies to maintain a healthy and pleasant outdoor climate to ensure usability of public spaces throughout the year. The high amount of vegetation as well as the introduction of a canal along the central public axis help cooling the air through evaporation while trees and shading devices offer protection from the sun. Having only a small number of high rise buildings keeps the amount of solar radiation reflected in the public spaces low. Climate adapted building design can furthermore ensure pleasant indoor climates while keeping the amount of required cooling energy low.

Technical information

The site of around 700,000 square meter is covered with buildings by 29.9% with 70.1% open space. 21.2% of the site are covered with residential buildings which leads to 148,247.15 square meters. An average building height of five floors leads to 741,235.75 square meters residential space.

Documentation

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