Jana Nakhal and Abir Saksouk from Public Works Studio recently asked me to write about Beirut’s seafront reclamations among a series of pieces dealing with rubble, seen not only a metaphor of the Lebanese condition but its mere material incarnation. You can find the whole series here, the intro piece (Rubble. Back Filling as a Process of Rewriting History) by Jana Nakhal and my own article, which I reproduce here.
Since the outbreak of the waste crisis in the wider Beirut area in 2015, the Lebanese government has resorted to the supposedly temporary solution of storing municipal waste in the coastal landfills of Borj Hammoud, Jdeideh, and Costa Brava. Far from being new or temporary, this solution is in fact merely a repetition of decisions implemented during the Civil War, and in a number of Lebanese coastal regions such as Saida and Tripoli, all of which share several characteristics. For instance, reclamations are often assigned to areas allotted for development in urban plans from the 1950s and 1960s, that were never implemented. These reclamations have become an important source for public works and real estate actors who are linked to leading Lebanese politicians, to dramatically increase profits and, in some cases, monopolize the land rent generated by these developments. Finally, the material that gives these embankments their reality erupts in moments of what we might call metabolic disturbances: when a seemingly sudden urban crisis results in an unexpected flow of materials that need to be stored in a particular place (e.g. municipal waste, rubble). These mechanisms of urbanization are a clear illustration of the notion of the Anthropocene, in that they constitute a new geological stratum created by human action. Continuer la lecture