In the last two decades, Beirut’s real estate market boomed and transformed the city. One of the yet non-developed areas of the city is a coastal area called Dalieh. Despite the fact that this area is privately owned, it was used as an openly accessible space by the public for years. However, recent development plans, aiming to build a high-end real estate complex, would largely change the open access and current character of this space.
A group of activists called “Civil Campaign to Protect the Dalieh of Raouche,” rejects those plans and advocates for the protection of the social, archeological and ecological significance of this space. They addressed those concerns, for example, in an open letter to Rem Koolhaas, who was creating design ideas for the development of the site. However, this campaign is not stopping at opposing current development plans, they are also proposing alternatives for the future use of this space. Last spring, they organized a design ideas competition under the auspices of the Lebanese Ministry of Environment.
The crowdfunded campaign set up an international jury of various professionals, including Jad Tabet, Lebanese architect and member of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, and the German landscape architect Hans Kienle. At the end of May, the jury selected three winning entries which were exhibited during the Beirut Design Week in June and will be published in a booklet in coming months. Sarah Lily Yassine, engaged in the campaign, said that “the competition was successful, to engage more people and to show the institutions that there are alternatives to consider on such a site.”
Even though the competition was not aiming to directly implement the resulting ideas, it sought to generate a debate about urban issues in Beirut, and in cities in general. Marwan Ghandour, professor of architecture and juror of the competition, describes this as “a competition which talks about something which is claimed by the people as an open space rather than something which is delivered by the government as a public space”. As an example of those spaces, Dalieh is called an “open access shared space” by the campaign. The idea of a grassroots design ideas competition shows an interesting model to trigger a debate about these spaces and also to generate new ideas for the future of our urban fabrics.
Below, some images of the three winning entries: