OMRAN’19 | Architecture of the Territory

OMRAN’19 | Architecture of the Territory

OMRAN – The Architectural Forum 2019

OMRAN’19is the first edition of an architectural forum organized by the Collective for Architecture Lebanon. It will take placeat the Beit Beirut Museum, under the patronage of the Municipality of Beirut between August 21 and September 11, 2019.

OMRAN’19 will feature an exhibition and a two-day conference around this year’s main theme “Architecture of the Territory“. It will bring together the various actors that contribute to the architectural, planning, historical, social and political discourses in Lebanon. It seeks to trigger debates and conversations about the urgency to rethink Lebanon’s national territory planning and its impact on the nation’s present and future.

The national plan needs to be rethought as there is a lack of proper distribution of capital, rampant inequality, lack of peripheral development, centralization around Beirut, political and social confessionalism, outdated power sharing systems. All of these issues negatively impact the planning discourse in Lebanon, to the extent that Lebanon and Beirut are considered ‘unplanned’ – How does OMRAN respond to this?

Academic work, research projects, photography, and installations will be part of the exhibited material, belonging to alumni, students, institutions, organizations, photographers and artists. Presentations on their work to the public will form a central part of the ensuing conference.

 

Theme | ARCHITECTURE OF THE TERRITORY

To what extent does the planning of a territory rely on its governing power structure? What role does the State play in organizing its territory? What role does the State play in organizing its territory? What is a territory and how can architecture create and cohesiveness? How can the state have an impact on its inhabitants by implementing national strategies?

This year’s main theme is “Architecture of the Territory: the paradoxical relationship of the state and its territorial planning.” Architecture is not restricted to the built environment; it also concerns economical, political and social policies. Territory is a geographical delimitation that is subjected to the power of a centralized authority. We believe that there is urgency for the state to rethink the way it manages and plans its territory. And to discuss various strategies through which new systems of collaboration and implementation can be put in place in order to achieve this goal.

A national territory cannot be organised, as a whole, without mobilizing the state’s resources and assets. The flagrant economic, political and social failure of Lebanon as a state has made it urgent to rethink the essential role of the architect as a primordial figure in the implementation of a territorial and urban plan strategy in order to achieve a cohesive Nation-State. Omran will pose a premise that must also be questioned. Is a ‘cohesive Nation-State’ the ultimate goal? or is there a possibility for the assimilation of a Post-Nation-State condition?

The main problematics that will be addressed in the exhibition are the following:

  1. How can the State address the lack of public space in its territory that is impeding the development of a unified Nation in a context where the sectarian enclave is the prevalent urban form?

What could be the methods through which the State and the private stakeholders create strategies of implementations for different forms of secular/free/accessible/democratic spaces in order to address this detrimental lack in the current condition?

  1. There is a need to re-appropriate resources due to the deficient structure of political legislation, and the inability of the State to function. This is causing an economic downturn and is exemplified in the lack of functioning infrastructure.

What are the strategies through which these resources can be re-approriated and distributed in order to secure the development of the Nation, by re-thinking the relationship between spaces of production and infrastructural networks?

  1. There is flagrant absence from the State in its role towards urgent housing needs, resulting in an uncontrolled production that have polarized the housing market between unregulated/illegal housing settlements and market driven private developments, favoring the detrimental feudal society. How can alternative housing schemes and typologies reshape the family structure and challenges the current profit driven production of houses?

Architects have always relied on different entities to accomplish their projects and aspirations. The debate is always centered on the autonomy of the discipline and its potential relationship to other fields. We believe that architecture is complex and cannot rely on its autonomy; it is crucial for the profession to grasp the economical, political, social, anthropological influences in creating Architecture. We have to ask questions that risk unsettling the existing order of relationships between Architecture and public, private and academic policies.

“Beirut has one of the most beautiful sites in the world. We could have made one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It would have been necessary to follow the master plan. […] The conditional used by Ecochard in 1955 attests to the lack of conformity to a controlled urbanism. […] It was a third-world city on the slope of unstructured urbanization, soon equivalent to an environmental and social disaster. It was far from Ecochard’s ambition of functional harmony […] at a time when everything was possible.”

The act of tracing the borders of a territory to delimit a country is one thing, to acquire an identity is another. The administration of the state, the transformation of the ag, the instating of the official language at the time of independence, the adoption of a national anthem in 1927 and an inherited constitution, are not sufficient to regroup the Lebanese citizens around the Nation State.

Since the proclamation of greater Lebanon in 1920 by the French General Gouraud after the fall of the Otto- man Empire, many have tried to organize the territory of the newly formed nation. The borders were traced through the Sykes Picot agreement drafted after World War I. This violent division of the territory is the first act of appropriation and the birth of Nation States in the Middle East. The borders were drawn by colonial powers to serve their own interest ignoring all autochthon claims and their right of self-determination.

Under the French mandate, multiple master plans for the country’s major cities were put forward and loosely adapted. The Danger brothers came in 1930, then arrived Michel Ecochard, Ernt Egli and the Greeks and many Lebanese homegrown urbanists with a dream to plan the rapid growth of the city.

It is fair to say that all have failed for different reasons to convince the Lebanese authorities to implement their plans. Part of the reasons include the demographics, the economic “laissez-faire”, the fierce opposition of land owners, and dysfunctional confessional and political system inherited from the French. This left the country with no cohesive territorial and urban planning which reflected and accentuated the inability of the state to govern itself.

At the end of the civil war in 1990, the Lebanese found a Nation that had witnessed 15 years of constant population displacement, defacement of its urban fabric, and reinforcement of sectarian enclaves. The Taif agreement that ended hostilities between the conflicting parties, demanded the establishment of a decentralized State. Today the urban chaos that dominates the Lebanese landscape is not a direct result of the civil war alone, but rather the product of an urban paradigm of the inability of the state to impose its authority and control over its land, privileging neo-liberal, private, and religious interests.

The flagrant economic, political and social failure of Lebanon as a state has made it urgent to rethink the essential role of territorial and urban planning in achieving a cohesive Nation State.

Exhibition

The forum will showcase an exhibition with proposals of territorial projects in Lebanon that have been developed, researched and conceived across academic and professional contexts.  These includes proposals from essential institutions, organizations, young professionals, artists and photographers that are engaged across the architectural, urban and political discourses.

The projects have to acknowledge relevant political, economical and social issues, and  address them through architectural and urban propositions. They can be design proposals, research projects, or installations that are expressed through drawings, images, models, video, texts or other.

Conference

The two-day conference will include key speakers, which are members from the public and private sectors, academia, and the general public to further discuss the main themes and questions posed by the territoriality of architecture. It seeks to open the debate around the (re) organization of the Lebanese territory on various scales. To rethink and challenge the dominant Neo-liberal production of architecture, and address the importance of a territorial plan and vision to ensure the nation’s future prosperity.

The conference will bring together various theoretical positions and expert points of view regarding the organization of a territory under a governing body.The issue at stake will not only be addressed from an architectural perspective (Infrastructure, Public Spaces, Housing, Master Planning…) but also through the economic, social, political and historical contexts that it heavily depends on.

Speakers

Adrian Lahoud is the Dean of the School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art. Prior to his current role at the RCA, he was director of the MA programme at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths and a research fellow in the Forensic Architecture ERC-funded project; studio master in the Projective Cities MPhil in Architecture and Urban Design at the Architectural Association; and director of the MArch Urban Design at the Bartlett, University College London.

Pier Vittorio Aureli is an architect and educator and co-founder of Dogma, an architectural studio based in Brussels. Aureli’s research and projects focus on the relationship between architectural form, political theory and urban history. He is a Visiting Professor at the School of Architecture at Yale University, and author of The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture (2011) and The Project of Autonomy (2008).

Maria Shéhérazade Giudici founded the publishing platform Black Square and coordinates the History and Theory of Architecture course at the RCA. She holds a PhD from TU Delft and has taught at the Berlage Institute, BIArch (Barcelona). Maria has worked on large- scale urban plans with BAU Bucharest, Donis Rotterdam and Dogma.

Rania Ghosnis an Associate Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at MIT School of Architecture + Planning and founding partner of the practice DESIGN EARTH with El Hadi Jazairy. Her practice DESIGN EARTH explores aesthetic forms of environmental engagement–notably the architectural drawing, exhibition, and publication–to visualize how technological systems change the Earth and to speculate on ways of living with legacy geographies, such as oil fields and landfills. Through a series of sponsored research projects, award-winning international competition entries, and biennial commissions, they have developed a distinct aesthetic design research method.

Abir Saksoukis an architect and urban planner. She has been involved in several research projects in Lebanon, including the history of informal suburbs, the social production of shared spaces in the city, and more recently housing rights and tenants claims in Beirut. She is interested in exploring how community engagement could be employed in planning and actively shaping the future of cities. She is co-founder of Dictaphone Group (2009) and Public Works Studio (2012).

Lina GhotmehBorn in Beirut in 1980’s, Lina Ghotmeh grew up in this ancient cosmopolitan city marked by the scars of the Lebanese civil war. Although she wanted to become an archaeologist, Lina carried out her architectural studies at the American University of Beirut, where she looked at the notions of memory, space and landscape through her own methodology entitled « Archeology of the future ». After graduating and being awarded both the AZAR and AREEN prizes. Lina pursues her education at the École Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris where she takes on a teaching role as an Associate Professor between 2008 and 2015.