Summary: This design competition aims to provoke a new wave of urban regeneration in Beirut, Lebanon, after the devastating massive explosion in August 2020. Through the injection of smart, minor but eﬀective urban interventions, that will be a driving motor to restoring the city’s lost identity, and help the inhabitants heal the scars of traumatic experience.
Description: On the 4th of August 2020, a massive explosion hit the heart of the city of Beirut. The Epicenter of this explosion was the main port surrounded by the historic center of the city. This scar left more than 300,000 people without a home and destroyed hundreds of historical buildings. The area was also known to be an attraction to a majority of the Lebanese youth, an Art and Cultural Hub standing side to side with a Nightlife and culinary center. The area affected was part of a collective memory of generations and generations evolving organically with the passing years. It was a perfect example of how a historic area can intuitively evolve and keep up with the times without losing its features.
Today all that remains are destroyed buildings, crumbling walls, and shattered windows. Since Urban Network was founded on the principal of using design as a tool for human improvement and development, we felt a professional and personal responsibility to be a part of the healing process of Beirut. There is a dire need to fix what has been destroyed, but an even more crucial one: restoring a lost collective memory. What is then the role of architects and designers in posttraumatic events? How can the urban space play a role in healing the scars left by natural (or man-made) disasters? But most importantly how can design be the motor for urban regeneration?
We at Urban Network take pride in being a laboratory for environmentally conscious design. Along with our partners, we used this disaster to present an alternate model. Through the We Wood – Beirut initiative, Urban Network seeks to make the ultimate usage of these materials, by collecting, upcycling and reusing the thrown wood for the benefit of the local community. Proudly closing 50 homes with 75% upcycled wood doors. The model presented served as an example that eco-friendly solutions through design can produce marvels.
As important and vital as closing houses is, a more critical problem lies under the surface. Doors and windows can be fixed but the scars left by the explosion cannot be easily mended. It is imperative to start thinking about the lost collective memory, the lost urban identity, the public spaces, streetscapes, but most importantly the new “post-explosion” urban experience. Design can play a vital role in restoring what was lost, as well as creating a new urban experience.
In the same methodology, we aim to provoke a new wave of urban regeneration. The injection of smart, minor but effective urban interventions, will be a driving motor to restoring the city’s lost identity and help the inhabitants heal the scars of this traumatic experience. With a lot of collected scrap wood, we are sure that upcycling combined with ingenious design solutions can be a motor for change. Through design, we want to help the inhabitants of Beirut to heal, we want to create urban experiences where the people can reconquer and redefine the city once again, just like they always have. We want you to think outside the box, think green, and think of the human “post-disaster” experience.
Read more about this competition and register here!