Adrian Lahoud:

On July 13th 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed a plan for the creation of a union made up of all the littoral nations of the Mediterranean. A key part of this proposal will be the construction of a high-speed rail line running along the shore of the Mediterranean basin and linking the Maghreb and the Levant through the Aegean coast to the Balkans, southern Europe and the Iberian Peninsula.
This single loop of infrastructure spanning from Gibraltar to the Bosporus would take in 21 separate states, 4 time zones, 7 major seas and connect the continents of Africa, Asia and Europe. The combined population of the littoral states is half a billion people.



The studio assumes an urban+social trauma will occur from the consequences wrought by the high speed train link on the cities along the line. This trauma can be leveraged for new development possibilities, we are focusing on one scenario for Beirut in Lebanon.

The scenario involves expanding the city onto reclaimed land, previously part of the Mediterranean, taking on as the city’s infrastructural hub.

We understand the city as being composed of both infrastructural networks for mobility and built fabric for inhabitation. These systems operate at multiple scales. Independent consideration is given to the specifics of each system at each scale. The superimposition of decisions becomes a way of relating different scalar problematics without resolving them into a coherent whole.

The fabric of Beirut is a patchwork. Internally cohesive zones of relatively consistent architectural quality meet in discontinuous seams. These form semi-autonomous neighbourhoods for the provision of commercial and social infrastructure. These conflicting spatial characteristics are the result of three mechanisms: war, infrastructure and development. This fabric must be understood as being governed by processes that simultaneously strengthen and erode the cohesion of its parts. The evidence of these processes is in the continual layering and superimposition of the fabric.

Development in the Arab world seems caught between excessive repetition and excessive difference. Dubai is signature objects whilst Beirut is signature tissue. Dubai is characterised by excessive difference whilst Beirut Central District is characterised by excessive repetition. The development of the Beirut Central District by real estate company Solidere formerly owned by slain Prime Minister Rafik Harriri repeats the highly consistent identity of an idealised city. This results in a highly homogenous built fabric.

We understand the potentiality of networks to both connect and move people across the city but also create spatial divisions in the fabric. We are investigating the necessity of coexistence between informal and formal networks by employing strategies that would provide a balance between integration and autonomy. This relationship is particularly significant in Beirut.

We see that a combination of connecting and autonomous systems can provide a productive tension for the city. A Tabula Rasa site often results in a complete integration of networks which do not allow for the flexibility and spontaneity of a coexistence of networks of varying formality.

Status | Completed 2009

Context | Social Transformations Studio, UTS M.Arch

Instructors | Adrian Lahoud, Dr. Samantha Spurr

Team | Erik Escalante and Alina Mcconnochie