The Reconstruction of the Beirut Central District: An Urban Geography of War and Peace

Dr. David Humphreys
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The Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) caused vast destruction to the city of Beirut, particularly in the area now called the Beirut central district. The reconstruction of the city can be explained as a project that seeks both to be faithful to the architectural legacy of the Ottoman and French mandate eras, and to modernise the city as a commercial and financial centre that connects the Levant to the Europe. Whereas the construction activity of the city in the 1950s and 1960s was essentially government-led, and was in large part the result of Keynesian economic planning, the reconstruction of the 1990s and 2000s is essentially private sector-driven, and can be seen as a product of neoliberalism. This helps explain the largely commercial nature of the redevelopment of the Beirut central district, although the role of public space in reintegrating the western and eastern parts of the city also features prominently. The reconstruction of the city can be seen as a largely elitist project focusing on the commercial and waterfront areas to the exclusion of other urban spaces, such as the southern suburbs and Palestinian refugee camps where large slum areas remain.

Keywords: Beirut, reconstruction, neoliberalism, reintegration, public space
Stream: Aesthetics, Design
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr. David Humphreys

Senior Lecturer in Environmental Policy, Geography Discipline
Faculty of Social Sciences, The Open University


David Humphreys is Senior Lecturer in Environmental Policy at The Open University, UK. The paper that he will present at this conference represents an initial foray into urban geography. It was stimulated by a visit to the American University of Beirut in 2004 that excited in him an interest in the renewal of one of the great cities of the Levant. He continues to research environmental politics. The academic journals in which he has published include Environmental Politics, Forest Policy and Economics, Global Environmental Change, Global Environmental Politics and Global Society. He is the author of “Forest Politics: The Evolution of International Cooperation” (Earthscan, 1996) and editor of “Forests for the Future: National Forest Programmes in Europe” (European Communities, 2004). He is currently writing a book on the global governance of forests. In 2003 he was appointed to a five-year term to the Scientific Advisory Board of the European Forest Institute.

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