What Remains..

The place that remains in our city.
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Designer(s) : Stephanie NASR

University : USEK - Holy Spirit University of Kaslik

Tutor(s) : Abdul Halim Jabr

In Beirut, overpopulation has pushed the urban sprawl to develop by constructing buildings closer to each other, faster, higher, before others, in front of others, and above others. This concrete jungle flows with the intent to fill all the voids of our city. With the aim of no longer creating unusable spaces that raise the urban density of an already anarchic city, the theme consists of not changing the urban fabric but inserting buildings that respect the state of the places and save the voids. I considered that “what remains” is in the form of green spaces, roads, pedestrian paths and abandoned land. My project then aims to identify the silence in the urban chaos in Gemmayze, a vibrant region in the heart of Beirut. The urban design of the city is centred around vehicle access only, with a disregard for pedestrian access. I chose to work on a section in Gemmayze that stretches from the “Saint Nicolas stairs” to the Port, passing the abandoned “Charles Helou bus station”. Through my intervention, this path intersects four nodes/stations accessible for both pedestrians and cyclists, and through shuttle cars. Indeed, with a sustainable transportation system, the use of cars will be obsolete, thereby breathing new life into Gemmayze’s pedestrian access.

The first node is in an abandoned site with a steep slope, a disoriented space which contains polluted areas and drowning in a noisy city. This land will be a public park: “The Garden Plaza”, well maintained. By answering my theme of “what remains”, I develop the steep land into a park accessible to the public while preserving the green space. The second node is the Charles Helou bus station, marginalized, and poorly maintained, that blocks all access from Gemmayze to the Port. The station will be converted into a souk, and a cultural area, and will be entitled “Charles Helou Pockets” which is accessible from the park. So I intervene with what is existing while respecting what remains of the city. The third node is a cultural centre on a site opposite the station, having a strategic location. This land will be the main node of the chain as the cultural centre with its green surroundings, entitled: “the Cultural Hub and Secret Garden”. I educate residents on the importance of conserving what’s left in the city through the cultural centre. The fourth node is in a site to the west of the previous site, surrounded by noisy traffic roads with residues of green spaces and Eucalyptus trees, an inaccessible island in the middle of roads. This node is converted into a Food Hub, entitled “Oasis Island”. So I transform what remains into accessible terraces.  The fifth and last node, located at the port, is the shuttle car station. Indeed, I get rid of cars, to revive the pedestrian access, specific to Gemmayze’s identity.

My project will introduce a new urban system to Beirut, so that it can be more ecological and more adapted to the pedestrian scale, within 50 years. All these remaining places will become investment opportunities with defragmented resources, and treasures lost in our heritage which breath the hope of a city to be saved and to a future to be woven with caution.