OMRAN’19 | Architecture of the Territory

Project

Architecture of the Territory | The paradoxical relationship of the state and its 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?

  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?

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Interview

What is the aim of the collective?

CAL aims to create a cross-disciplinary platform for discussion and debate between the fields of architecture, design, urban planning and the humanities. As a platform, we reach out to and engage various agents that hold crucial roles in the development and dissemination of more comprehensive visions and discourses surrounding these fields. Our primary target is the upcoming generation of young professionals in order to empower them to pursue their research and planning endeavors, and translate them into concrete interventions. The larger vision of the organization is to raise the status quo of urban and territorial planning in Lebanon on the academic, practical and governmental levels.

What are the main tools employed at CAL?

We organize events such as lectures, conferences, exhibitions and competitions. These in turn involve various stakeholders across fields to come together, debate and connect. The discussions that form through these events are then translated into various types of publications, whether it is books or videos.

How do you approach architectural ‘research’?

By putting together various stakeholders that benefit from being connected together but have never been due to a lack of framework. Conversation and debate as conflicting as it can sometimes be, is beneficial to the type of research we want to produce.

How and to what extent has your academic career at the AA influenced the very formation of CAL and the methodology through which you operate?

The AA teaches you how to think and more importantly how to act on that. The method through which work is produced at the AA might vary from unit to unit but the common aspect is that it is always led pushed and developed by the individuality of the student. And this is exactly how CAL was created.

After numerous years abroad you chose to go back and work within the context of Lebanon, what informed this choice?

Although I am still based in London, through a lucky opportunity which presented itself in a conversation I had the chance and the reason to found CAL. It was not something I could pass on, especially since I have been working on projects on Lebanon in my diploma years, it just seemed like a natural continuation to the work I had been doing.

What is the current architectural situation in Lebanon?

There is a paradox that exists between the State and its territorial planning, it is due to the lack of stability in the state resulting in a weak/non-existent strategy, and in a weaker

national unity. It must be stressed that Lebanon is an anomaly in the global planning trends. Elsewhere in the world, the relationship between state and territory is a very intimate one where the functionality of the state is dictated by an organization of the territory, in Lebanon, this is obviously not the case; the state in Lebanon benefits from a lack of planning since the imaginary power of the state rests in its post-1990 power-sharing division of governmental positions and their unfair distribution across the territory. Hence the territory is underrepresented and unorganized.

What problematics have you encountered both as a researcher and an architect operating within the country?

We have developed three problematics which we will be addressing during OMRAN.
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?
2. 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?
3. 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?

How and why did you develop the very concept and programme of Omran’19?

As 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. We decided we could begin to discuss these issues through the format of an architectural forum, OMRAN. The forum 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?

What informed the selection of invited speakers?

We aimed at bringing together various points of views related to urban planning but also to get a balance between people that are working on the ground and people who have something new to bring to the local conversation. The four keynote speakers are Adrian Lahoud, is the Dean of the School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art, Maria Shéhérazade Giudici, Diploma Unit Master at the AA and Editor in Chief of the AA files, Rania Ghosn, Associate Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at MIT School of Architecture + Planning and founding partner of the practice DESIGN EARTH with El Hadi Jazairy, and Abir Saksouk-Sasso, architect and urban planner and co-founder of Dictaphone Group (2009) and Public Works Studio (2012).

What questions are you hoping that this series of talks will raise? And maybe more importantly how will you go about addressing these in the long run?

We are hoping to develop on the three problematics that are mentioned above. We have received a grant from the Ministry of culture to publish a book after the forum. We are also hoping this will become a recurring event, either every two or three years. And more importantly we are hoping that some of the issues we will be discussing will be addressed in some form, probably through the implementation of some projects.

About

Collective for Architecture Lebanon (CAL) is a non-profit organization established in 2019 in Beirut. It is registered at the Lebanese Ministry of Interior under the number 8629/201.

CAL aims to create a cross-disciplinary platform for discussion and debate between the fields of architecture, design, urban planning and the humanities. As a platform, CAL will reach out to and engage various agents that hold crucial roles in the development and dissemination of more comprehensive visions and discourses surrounding these fields. Our primary target is the upcoming generation of young professionals in order to empower them to pursue their research and planning endeavors, and translate them into concrete interventions. We aim to achieve this through the organization of events such as lectures, conferences, exhibitions and competitions. These in turn will involve various stakeholders acrossfields to come together, debate and connect. The larger vision of the organization is to raise the status quo of urban and territorial planning in Lebanon on the academic, practical and governmental levels.

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OMRAN’19 is 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.

 

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