Beirut, Towards a sustainable journey

Rita Catarino, Ikra Seymen, Carolina Viegas
ISCTE, Department of Architecture, Lisbon

Project idea

Our proposal for the port emerges from a macro scale analysis, where the elaborated strategy is linked to the prevailing problematics in the city. We define a new hierarchy for the port, where we emphasize the needs of the people of Beirut and the city first. Instead of a linear economy , our proposal visions a circular economy for the port, which is based on a system flow of sharing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials.
While still maintaining some of the old functions of the port we introduce a new set of activities in order to help balance the problematics present in the city in regards to pollution, electricity, production, rehabilitation and connectivity. While doing so, we included the Nahr Beirut, the landfills and different areas in the city to strengthen the connection between city-port to our proposal.

Project description

There was the vision for a more public and walkable space for the area of the port. The Charles Helou Avenue represents the limit between the city and the port, and it doesn´t have any pedestrian permeability characteristics. One of the interventions starts at the Charles Helou Avenue, where the aim begins by diminishing its traffic and to add pedestrian access. In order to do so, we propose the replacement of two car lanes for a bus and bike lane and the addition to bigger sidewalks on eachside of the avenue.

The city of Beirut presents to have many abandoned and deteriorating buildings, while demolishing them to construct new ones is a very expensive and polluting practice, in our proposal we aim to reuse them. These buildings are the ones in proximity to the port: the Charles Helou Bus Station, where the aim is to rehabilitate it for it to be used as a new and reformed public transport system; the Electricité du Liban Headquarters, that would be transformed in a research center for reusable and clean energy, associated with a substation that will receive the energy produced by an anaerobic digestion system; and the Mar Mikhael Train Station that would become a farmers market, associated with urban agriculture.
The silos are another structure that we propose to be reused and transformed into a public space including a museum and library, that also aims to be center of the memorial park for the victims of the blast. The park includes the delimitation of the explosion area left on the ground, in the form of a bench as well as the delimitation of the silos parts that collapsed, as sitting spaces, vegetation or children’s playground.

Rethinking the traditional free zone, we propose a sustainable creative hub that includes housing with community agricultural gardens, start-up, workshop and NGO offices, greenhouses, research offices and public access gardens. Taking into consideration the prevailing food security issues and the existing agriculture potential, the buildings are intended to be self-sustaining while providing areas for food crops. The agricultural species for the greenhouses and testing crops were based on the high national consumption, including an autochthonous variety that is obtained through a resource that grows spontaneously in the existing natural condition. This space will provide educational and leisure activities while creating a stronger connection between a city-port for the people.
In order to aims to prompt and enhance fishing activity and industry in the city, we proposed floating farms, that work in production and cultivation of fish and greens in a closed loop economy. The floating farms are connected by a permeable path in an attempt to anchor people’s engagement both spatially and functionally. Besides being a functional farm, it aims to fulfill educational role for the city and its inhabitants by incorporating participatory activities. These farms are in close proximity with the proposed farmers market, where the food distribution and commerce takes place. The outer space of this area is thought to promote the practice of various activities and events, while linking the urban and rural, sustainable economies and promoting public health.
For the landfills, we propose its rehabilitation and the creation of an eco-industrial park. This area is visioned to include diverse functions such as a wastewater treatment plant, a recycling and conversion plant which would be the center for waste treatment and conversion to usable goods coming from the port and city, while also being the center of the distribution of these ones.
The proposal also aims to connect the harbour, city and river ecosystems forming a "green belt", a multifunctional green infrastructure that integrates the existing agricultural activities, where new equipments are designed to carry transition functions between the proposed green and agricultural spaces and the nearby city buildings. The whole proposed project looks at urban agriculture as a sustainable strategy capable of restoring the ecosystemic balance, and to build a system of open multifunctional spaces that respond to the particularities and challenges of tomorrow's megacities.

Technical information

The strategies for the buildings present a sustainable approach taking into consideration natural ventilation, solar energy by adopting photovoltaic panels on the rooftops, water storage and recycling systems and rooftop farms that provide insulation and food options. The buildings are spaces of transition between the city and the areas of the port that are designed as an urban park, so there is a strong recreational and productive functions involving agriculture and green areas.


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