The aim of the project, is to help the Lebanese state deconstruct its confessional system, through manipulating the family as a unit.
During the French mandate over Lebanon that ended in 1943 a very particular political system was put in place by the occupying power: the confessional system. This political structure stipulate that political power would be accurately represented between the country 18 religious sects but more importantly that all issues regarding personal status (marriage, inheritance, divorce…) would be regulated independently by those religious sects, undermining the authority of the newly created nation state.
Although a 19th sect was also mentioned in the 1943 inherited constitution for any individual that would want to be placed under civil state law and not belong to any of the religious communities.Today in absence of any civic law regarding the personal status of this 19th sect, the situation created a legislative loophole preventing citizens of joining it.
The goal of the project is to shift back the center of power in the country that is currently held by the religious authorities and the clan family to the state. In order to do so the project proposes as a strategy to weaken the clan family by empowering financially the nuclear family through a housing scheme and rebuild by the same occasion and more heterogeneous society.
Following the signature of the Taif agreement in 1989 that outlines the basis to construct a new modern state, by clearly stipulating the abolition of the confessional system and taking advantage of the 19th secular state mentioned in the constitution, the project proposes to give the Lebanese state the tools to achieve a transition from a confessional to a secular state by building and empowering economically it’s 19th secular community.
Three urban incubators are created around Lebanon to build this 19th sect: Beirut (the capital port city), Tripoli (the former port-city of Damascus) and Zahle (in the hinterland, at the eastern frontier of Syria). Within those cities state owned land is chosen on the outskirt of those cities on major circulation arteries such as: train stations, international highways and airports. The sites will host industrial zone that would produce prefabricated housing meant to respond to the urgency of the current housing crisis in Syria (following the McKenzie economic plan for Lebanon of 2019).
This is a unique excuse and opportunity for the Lebanese state to rethink the current housing conditions and develop a new housing typology that can be adapted to both territories as they share similar socio economical conditions.The scale of the sites makes it so that they can be considered as another enclaves within the urban fabric: secular enclaves. The sites will primarily house the factory workers of the 19th sect in houses that are temporarily placed on the periphery of the site. This phase will last for 5 to 10 years in order for the community to gain economic and political independency from the city and its sectarian domination.These prefabricated houses are made of modules; every four modules can host one family.These modules can be applied in several configurations; following key principals. Every configuration can contain 4 or more families.
The state controls the allocations of the families within the buildings, it does not allowed blood related families to be neighbors by instituting confessional quotas creating “the network family”.
All the infrastructure within those houses is shared among the individual families. The modules are also design to have a limited number of inhabitants and cannot be extended. This allows a bigger autonomy and independence of the nuclear family from it’s clan; alternatively, it allows the networked family to thrive. After 10-15 years, the houses are dismantled from the industrial site and ready to integrate the sectarian dominated urban fabric, creating a network of secular buildings. This is a home that is not designed for a specific demographic it is rather a home than can be implemented and inhabited on a national scale.
It has become crucial for the Lebanese state to implement the de-confessionalisation process, in order to finally build “the vivre ensemble” that the country was built upon. This project is an opportunity that shows the potential of architects as policy whisperer and that architects could and should be at the center of the political, economic and social decision making processes.
*The project is part of the open call for ARCHITECTURE OF THE TERRITORY’ by the Collective for Architecture Lebanon in occasion of Omran’19.