Urban Design and Landscape

Power Line

Rita Manzoni, Elena Pace, Veronica Dalla Torre
University of Trento

Project idea

The project “Power Line” wants to provide a new space for the people, a space that is new but also that takes back what once was its own. The project aims at reconnecting the city with the sea, utilizing the port area as a connection where before was a line of division. The new grids of the port district is inspired to the old city, in particular to the Roman Baths near Place de l’Etoile. The lines of connection are many, in fact the main action of this project, which also gives it’s name, is a cyclable and walking path sheltered by solar canopies that provide shade and sustainable energy for the port and its machinery so that it does not burden on the already unstable and unreliable public electricity supply. This path wants to reconnect people from different sides of the city, but also wants to reunite the port with the city. The canopies can also offer covered spaces for activities, such as bars or souks, or more simply picnic areas; and they protect the new buildings guesting the services of the port aimed at the public as well. Another service provided by the canopies is the transportation of rainwater to the water squares, spaces where people can interact and meet with one another: when it rains, all the water flows in the area are conveyed in the squares to create water basins that provide refreshment. Water is also a line of reunition, since it is present in canals and tanks, symbolizing the reconnection between the sea and the land. Another form of energy is produced by algae farm, that can assist with the energetical weight of the port through biofuel other than helping with the water pollution both from the hinterland travelling through the river and from the sea.
As the project takes inspiration from the Astragalus Beirytheus, the power line takes to the silos in a bright pink path, infact the Astragalus is a coastal endemic flower with pink petals and is endangered by the urban sprawl. We designed bright neon flowers to support the theme of memory and to honour the victims of the explosion and to never forget what happened, the silos building becomes a memorial, where the victims are going to be commemorated by 215 flower lights.

Project description

The project started with the analysis of the context both of the port area and the city, that allowed us to understand weaknesses and strengths of the zone. An extremely important issue is the electricity supply, which is discontinuous when provided by public sources, therefore the project thinks of solutions that can ease the electricity system, at least for the city of Beirut, from the energetical burden that the port is, with all its machineries. One of the proposed solutions is the creation of algae farm, located along the river mouth. This option provides not only energy, but also help in decreasing the water pollution coming from the hinterland and the sea. The energy will be produced through the biofuel and bio-oil that aretransformed into energy. The establishment of a farm also creates workplaces, thanks to the fast growth of algae; another feature is the utilization in different fields, from energetical to alimentary and pharmaceutical; all these features without wasting a significant amount of agricultural land. Another solution for the energetical issue is the installation of a new path, both for cycling and pedestrian purposes, that is surmounted by solar canopies. With this element, shadow is provided and also solar energy. The canopies are constructed according to the principle of repetition: there is a module that is repeated within
the entire area, it is in the protective canopies over the path, but it can also be found in different areas with different purposes, such as shelter for public spaces or activities, it can become roof for picnic areas, bars or
souks. The element of the canopy is also reiterated in the new constructions for the port activities as protection and shell of the actual buildings, so that it can provide more climatically favourable environments for the workers and increase the production of energy. The reconstructed buildings are a new gate and a new warehouse. This cyclable and pedestrian path is the solution to another issue of the city of Beirut: the lack of presence of this type of lanes, in fact the only notable promenade is the Corniche, along the seaside. Another regional issue is the rain, especially the drainage of it, that in the past and present has been causing many problems to the city and its inhabitants, damaging structures and activities. The canopies are bult so that they can store rainwater and transport it to the water basins and water squares present in the area. Whenit rains the water squares fill with water and become attractions that can provide refreshment. This also prevents blocking of the piping system: instead of water coming at one time, this method allows a slow drainage. The presence of water in the area symbolizes the reconnection of the sea and the urbanized land, also with canals and water tanks. The urbanized area wants to be reconnected with the city, as it was in the past, therefore it has been used a grid that resembles the old city of Beirut to divide the land in lots for different purposes. The grid recalls the Roman Baths, near Place de l’Etoile. This urbanization is also spread in the urban void in the vicinity of the port to reconnects even more the different parts of the city. Surrounding the area there is also a linear forest, that provides a filter for air pollution, noise pollution and visual pollution, coasting the highway, and a cooler environment. The forest promotes social and physical activities, and at the same time it restores the native vegetation of the country. The remained buildings are going to be recovered and reused for different purposes, becoming upcycled buildings. Not the silos, though, in fact this building will be secured without invasive actions and it will be a memorial for the victims and a symbol of resilience, it survived not only the explosion but also the civil war, and it is already seen by the citizens as that. To commemorate the victims, 215 flower lights are positioned in the silos, one for each victim. The flower used is the astragalus beirytheus, a plant that is endemic to Lebanon and is almost extinctic, as a sign of remembrance.

Technical information

The algae farm is thought to produce from about 50 000 to 120 000 kg per hectare of biofuel.
The power line (cpedestrian and cyclable path) itself is more than 8 km long and can produce around 128 000 kWh per day wich provides up to 30% of the energy consumpition of the port.

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