The Reconstruction of the Beirut Central District: An urban geography of war and peace

Humphreys, David (2015). The Reconstruction of the Beirut Central District: An urban geography of war and peace. Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, 6(4) pp. 1–14.




Three conceptual themes of public-private, temporality, and heritage-modernity are used to develop an urban geography of war and peace of Beirut. During the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war public space shrank and people retreated deeper into localised neighbourhoods, with private space becoming more public as people accommodated those who were displaced. Since the war, the public sector has been rehabilitated, but decision making autonomy on the reconstruction of Beirut’s centre has been handed to a private company. The theme of temporality concerns the relationship between the city’s past, present, and future, with debates on what parts of the city should be preserved intimately bound with notions of memory and forgetting. The relationship between heritage and modernity, both of which are fluid and evolving notions, has informed the reconstruction of the city. The reclamation by Beirutis of the centre of the city following the assassination of Rafic Hariri in 2005 makes clear that urban space is constructed as much by publics as by architects and town planners, with Place des Martyrs once again functioning as an integrating space for public dialogue and reconciliation.

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