Urban Design and Landscape

Camouflage in Beirut

Can Kayaaslan, Aykan Aras, Kutay Kaynak

Project idea

This project reimagines the Beirut Port not only as a logistic and industrial node of transportation but also as an endless Freezone that can answer any economic or social demand the city asks from it.

For an urban system to be resilient it needs to be in harmony with its context and be able to adapt whenever the context changes.

The word camouflage comes from the research phase. Through the research phase of the project, it became evident that the city of Beirut is no stranger to the notion of crisis. The most visible marks of this are left from the Civil War between 1975 and 1990. The civil war left a cultural and a physical division border in the city, “The Green line”. The reason for the name “green” was the endemic plant species that took over the region over that 15 years. These plants were used as camouflage.

Camouflage is the keyword of this project. The word camouflage does not mean to hide. Rather, it means to be in a synergic relation with the background. In the case of designing a port, the city is the background. The foreground (the port) must always adapt to the background (the city). However, unlike a stable image, the city of Beirut is an ever-changing background. Thus, for the system to be resilient, it also needs to continually adapt, relate and respond to the city.

Looking from a more conceptual view camouflage actually existed everywhere in Beirut. Different cultures, religions, and nationalities are camouflaging into each other in a melting pot.

This project offers something Beirut is already capable of doing, being resilient and adapting. In addition, it provides a solid system to make adaptation consistent and efficient.

Project description

To achieve this system, there has to be constants and variables. The constants for the project are, the Passenger Terminal, the Silo as a Memorial, the Shipyard, the Container Terminal, A long-term Housing Project, and two Tensile Structures.

There are also variable elements with various timeframes approximating how often they will be changed. Daily variables: Platforms of the Modulor Shoreline and Shadings. Weekly: Light Structures and Containers. Monthly: Open Spaces, Temporary Housing Units, and Power stations. Long-term: Markets and Warehouses. Cranes are a unique variable since they help everything else to be constructed and manipulated.

The 1/1000 site plan is only a possible instant frame from the project. The constants are going to stay as they are, but any variable on the plan might change one day later. Dynamic context requires dynamic designs.

The Passenger Terminal works together with the modular shoreline. The Silo is a memorial with many open spaces around it. It is a symbol for resilience of the city. The Shipyard is placed on the third dock as a place to repair damaged ships. the Container Terminal uses an automized rail system for maximum efficiency. The large Tensile Structures can house any activity from sports games to concerts. The Long-Term housing project close to the city along the highway is both a solution to the current homelessness situation and a precaution for the future. With such precautions backed up by stable systems, the city will camouflage its way through any crisis.

Technical information

The variable elements come together in different combinations to make clusters for people to use. Clusters include; Market Areas, Exhibitions, Gathering Zones, Supply Zones, Workshops, Concert and Activity areas, and a Bazaar. People of Beirut are free to construct any of these clusters when they need them or even create a new cluster with a new combination. It is all open for contribution.

To make this system more user-friendly, the project provides a catalog, with all elements and clusters. The comic in the catalog shows possible solutions for two scenarios. It shows the best way to approach a festival or an emergency situation at the Port. The system can indeed handle both situations. There is also an app for people to use that helps them to easily navigate and learn about the nearby elements, to make construction more efficient. A shoreline can quickly become an open-air cinema overnight. All of the smaller elements are thought to be stored in the nearest warehouse and transported to the needed area quickly.


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