Urban Design and Landscape

Anti-Tyros: Reimagining Beirut Port, the industrial frontiers and the disentanglement of crises

Michail Karamichalis
University of Patras, School of Engineering, Department of Architecture, Patras

Project idea

Beirut, the coastal capital of Lebanon, is an ancient city with an ever-expanding urban as well as industrial area. Since the urban and industrial expansions are contrasting in nature and occur simultaneously, yet independently, they result in coexisting as independent entities which are in territorial conflict.  

The port explosion that happened on the 4th of August 2020, unearthed the multilayered crises that has been plaguing Beirut since the establishment of the country: from religious and political conflicts, to the Civil War and the stand against memory in the years that followed, to more political mishandling that peeked in resent years; from the 2015 waste crisis, to the 2018 liquidity crisis and the October Revolution that ended due to Covid, to the port explosion and the current energy crisis. There is no doubt that a pressing need for the reconfiguration, organization and handling of the general Beirut area has risen.

Although the port explosion happened following administrative mismanage from the port executives, after researching the zoning law of different mediterranean countries, it has become evident that the distance from the warehouse, that stored the explosive content, to the city was inadequate. The search for a more suitable area for the port, uncovered the rich history of coastal sculpting and landfills in Beirut and Lebanon, in general, that began in Tyre. In antiquity, Tyre or Tyros, was an island city in southern Lebanon, 74 km south from Beirut, that during the Siege of Tyros, Alexander the Great managed to conquer by building a nearly kilometer-long causeway which is nowadays a peninsula.

Project description

By inverting the concept of Tyros a new enclave is being established opposite to the industrial coast of Beirut, that accumulates the trading uses of the port. The new port stands as a new artificial landscape outside the city frontier. New infrastructure and buildings are being designed in accordance with the requirements of a functioning port, by taking into consideration the existing program of the old one and aspiring for a port that could handle the maritime needs of a new sea hub for the Middle East. Also, a new train line and an above-ground highway is being proposed connecting the island port to the mainland.

Consecutively, the old port returns to the urban fabric and is being repurposed, by being divided into four zones. The first one, the seafront, is for social and memorial activities with a promenade to connect the different areas; the new marina, the amphitheatrical stage deck, the sport park, the museum, the flea market, the religious centers, the memorial park and the artificial beach on the area where the crater is located. The old silo building stands as a monument of the tragic event of August 4th, encased into a metallic structure, that will brace the trauma and both preserve and enable it to return to nature. The second zone, near Gamayze and Mar Mikhael, is used for future urban development. The third zone, is an intermediate zone between the urban and industrial areas in which the cruise, train and buss terminals are being placed. The last zone is an expansion of Karantina, were a Waste to Power energy plant is being proposed. The Waste to Power energy plant will tackle simultaneously the waste and energy crises plaguing Beirut in recent years and its white emissions will act as a new landmark on the skyscape, that will remind the people of the smoke after the explosion, minimising the PTS after the event and redefining the area as a place of hope.

The new seafront will Stand as a reminder of Beirut’s hardships, as well as a hopeful promise for the future to come. The project aims to alter the perception of Beirut, uncovering its hidden industrial landscape and commemorating its rich traumatic urban history.

Technical information

The new land needed for the commercial port will be constructed as a new artificial landfill. The existing debris following the explosion will be repurposed for this landfill. The new buildings in the island port will be made from concrete and metal emphasizing the industrial character of the eastern coastal area of Beirut. In more detail, the silos building, the port administration headquarters and port authority building will be exclusively made out of concreate. While the different warehouses placed on the docks will be metallic.

In the old port the ground on the seafront will stay the same and only the park areas will be covered by local plants. the area around the monument will be planted with wheat, in reference to the grains stored in the old Silos building. The brace covering and supporting the monument will be metallic in contrast to the concreate existing structure. The main material that would be perceived from the three terminal station will be glass, making the views from buildings to the city and the industrial zone transparent and the buildings to seem lighter. The waste to power energy plant will be mainly made out of concreate as a massive monumental structure preluding to the rest of the industrial zone located after it.


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