Reinstating social practices for social integration : experiencing the badaro- pine forest area in Beirut

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This paper addresses how the reinstatement of everyday practices in urban public spaces could lead to social encounter and coexistence within unstable urban contexts, specifically those witnessing political instability and an influx of refugees. The context for this investigation is in Beirut, Lebanon with a focus on the area referred to as Badaro at the southern edge of the administrative boundary of the capital city. This area currently witnesses a juxtaposition between real estate development catering for market-led needs, and bottom up initiatives to generate rhythmic social practices that are affecting Badaro’s within role in Beirut. The name Badaro is given to an area holding a street with the same name, which is bordered on one side by the Damascus Road, the capital’s war time demarcation line, and on the other side by the pine forest that was the buffer area or no-man’s land separating east from west during the fifteen years of war. Badaro was encapsulated in between, which meant the preservation of an urban fabric with pre-war architecture, and other features lending themselves to bottom up initiatives supporting social interaction and encounter, which were lacking following the war period. Examining Badaro’s socio-spatial development is based on Lefebvre’s approach to everyday social practice as well as the understanding of the role of collective memory in urban spaces in reference to Hebbert. The paper examines the spatial development of Badaro before the war, its dormant state during the civil war period between 1975 and 1989, and its recent reawakening after the rise of bottom up initiatives since 2005. Based on empirical data collected in 2015 and 2016, the conceptual framework linking everyday social practices and collective memories is used to trace the spatial and temporal diversities within this area and the contributions of initiatives to support coexistence among various social groups, in the absence of a planning strategy proposed by the municipality or the planning authorities. These initiatives seek to reinstate public spaces and everyday urban practices. In particular, the initiative for reopening the pine forest focuses on empowering citizens and raising awareness on the importance of public space in offering a healthy everyday urban life. The paper concludes by reflecting on the actions and results of some of these bottom up approaches in enabling the coexistence of diversity in a previously fragmented socio-spatial context.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Spaces of Dialog for Places of Dignity, Lisbon, 11-14th July, 2017
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