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Fri, 2018-06-08 19:00
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Is Lebanese architecture ill ?...

Beyond the inherent consequences of any war and namely the controversies related to the reconstruction of Beirut, the question of how not to break the homogeneity of the urban fabric and to encourage the coexistence of the old and the new, of tradition and modernity, of architecture and landscape, is today’s main concern.

According to Richard Mitri, architect and professor at the University of Kaslik " Until the French Mandate, Beirut had a defined style resulting from the combination of European and Oriental influences. Today, Beirut has no more soul, no more place for human beings, it is dry, it is the reign of money and "speed", of mineral to the detriment of the vegetable. Craftsmen are giving way to machines, the know-how relative to each type of construction is disappearing and we are now entering the era of copying. "

Is Lebanese architecture ill? According to architects, the last 50 years have primarily been the result of an accumulation of errors. For Richard Mitri, the Lebanese landscape is the consequence of "too many liberties taken with obtuse and obsolete regulations although regularly amended, which were written with a bureaucratic spirit and not that of an urban planner or an
architect." The statement of Georges Khayat (architect and deputy director of the school of architecture at ALBA) corroborates this problem and casts the light on it from a different angle: "today, 50 to 60% of buildings are signed off by civil engineers and not by architects. "

As a result of a regulation that does not match current needs and realities, the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) is held responsible for all the ills although it is the key element since it draws the architectural panorama. Thus, the country is divided into areas with an assigned percentage that establishes the surface that we have the right to build on (or the envelope of the future Building) compared to the total land space available. In practical terms, this means that for an area of 1000m2 in a zone where the FAR is 1, we have the right to build 1000m 2 X 1 or in other words 1000 m2 that can be divided into 2 floors of 500 m2 each, for example.

"We now know that the master plan made in Beirut in 1957 is still applied especially when it comes to the FAR. It is very high, more than 5, which led to having all these tall buildings in the Capital for example. The problem is that this FAR has been applied blindly across the board regardless of the peculiarities of lands.

There are neighbourhoods like Basta or Gemmayzeh where there was a typical architecture dating from the end of the Ottoman period or the French mandate era and that deserves as such to be protected; but these areas were invaded, just like other districts, by this same FAR and were put in danger of destruction " briefs Mousbah Rajab, architect and professor at the Institute of Fine Arts at the Lebanese University.

Far from trying to remedy to this phenomenon, it seems that the government is rather actively contributing to its aggravation. According to Georges Khayat and the architect Jacques Liger- Belair, "the latest construction law dating back to January 2006 has insidiously allowed an increase of 15% of the building over the total ratio which indirectly establishes the FAR in Beirut at 6; so on a 1000m2 land, it is now possible to build in Gemmayzé for example, a 6000m2 building, which is equivalent schematically to 14 floors, or 45-50 m in height ".

Heights that are as vertiginous as the amount of money they can produce. Because in addition to dangerously increasing the density of population in the city and contributing to the architectural imbalance, the arbitrary determination of FAR also endangers heritage. In fact, given the current prices of the m2 in Beirut, a 14 -story building in the center can bring in more than 20 million dollars in total. In the meantime, a “house with three arcades” occupies approximately 20-30% of the total surface of the land it is built on. The calculation of unexploited potential surface is quickly undertaken by profitability-oriented promoters, as well as by owners who are attracted by the prospect of such a project.
How can one resist the temptation of succumbing to the sirens of enrichment and sell their estate under such circumstances? The house will then be quickly destroyed in order to erect a tower, and in the rubbles, a part of the heritage will disappear.

-  
2012-10-05

Beyond the inherent consequences of any war and namely the controversies related to the reconstruction of Beirut, the question of how not to break the homogeneity of the urban fabric and to encourage the coexistence of the old and the new, of tradition and modernity, of architecture and landscape, is today’s main concern.

According to Richard Mitri, architect and professor at the University of Kaslik " Until the French Mandate, Beirut had a defined style resulting from the combination of European and Oriental influences. Today, Beirut has no more soul, no more place for human beings, it is dry, it is the reign of money and "speed", of mineral to the detriment of the vegetable. Craftsmen are giving way to machines, the know-how relative to each type of construction is disappearing and we are now entering the era of copying. "

Is Lebanese architecture ill? According to architects, the last 50 years have primarily been the result of an accumulation of errors. For Richard Mitri, the Lebanese landscape is the consequence of "too many liberties taken with obtuse and obsolete regulations although regularly amended, which were written with a bureaucratic spirit and not that of an urban planner or an
architect." The statement of Georges Khayat (architect and deputy director of the school of architecture at ALBA) corroborates this problem and casts the light on it from a different angle: "today, 50 to 60% of buildings are signed off by civil engineers and not by architects. "

As a result of a regulation that does not match current needs and realities, the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) is held responsible for all the ills although it is the key element since it draws the architectural panorama. Thus, the country is divided into areas with an assigned percentage that establishes the surface that we have the right to build on (or the envelope of the future Building) compared to the total land space available. In practical terms, this means that for an area of 1000m2 in a zone where the FAR is 1, we have the right to build 1000m 2 X 1 or in other words 1000 m2 that can be divided into 2 floors of 500 m2 each, for example.

"We now know that the master plan made in Beirut in 1957 is still applied especially when it comes to the FAR. It is very high, more than 5, which led to having all these tall buildings in the Capital for example. The problem is that this FAR has been applied blindly across the board regardless of the peculiarities of lands.

There are neighbourhoods like Basta or Gemmayzeh where there was a typical architecture dating from the end of the Ottoman period or the French mandate era and that deserves as such to be protected; but these areas were invaded, just like other districts, by this same FAR and were put in danger of destruction " briefs Mousbah Rajab, architect and professor at the Institute of Fine Arts at the Lebanese University.

Far from trying to remedy to this phenomenon, it seems that the government is rather actively contributing to its aggravation. According to Georges Khayat and the architect Jacques Liger- Belair, "the latest construction law dating back to January 2006 has insidiously allowed an increase of 15% of the building over the total ratio which indirectly establishes the FAR in Beirut at 6; so on a 1000m2 land, it is now possible to build in Gemmayzé for example, a 6000m2 building, which is equivalent schematically to 14 floors, or 45-50 m in height ".

Heights that are as vertiginous as the amount of money they can produce. Because in addition to dangerously increasing the density of population in the city and contributing to the architectural imbalance, the arbitrary determination of FAR also endangers heritage. In fact, given the current prices of the m2 in Beirut, a 14 -story building in the center can bring in more than 20 million dollars in total. In the meantime, a “house with three arcades” occupies approximately 20-30% of the total surface of the land it is built on. The calculation of unexploited potential surface is quickly undertaken by profitability-oriented promoters, as well as by owners who are attracted by the prospect of such a project.
How can one resist the temptation of succumbing to the sirens of enrichment and sell their estate under such circumstances? The house will then be quickly destroyed in order to erect a tower, and in the rubbles, a part of the heritage will disappear.

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