Beirut RiverLESS: Community Focus Group

As part of our Beirut RiverLESS initiative and in collaboration with The Chain Effect, we organized a community focus group session in Badguer, Bourj Hammoud on Satuday, February 2nd 2019.

The session started by introducing the collaborating organizations, and an introduction of the river project to residents from areas surrounding the river including Bourj Hammoud, Nabaa, and Kornish el Nahr.

After learning about our proposed interventions, the participants shared the challenges posed by the river including the physical and visual disconnection created by the walls from Bourj Hammoud area, the lack of awareness by the local communities, the inadequate infrastructure, and the low quality of life. They also proposed some ideas to tackle these challenges including awareness raising, creating a visibility with the river, solving the traffic problem by designating car-free streets, cleaning the river and bringing the community together by holding events in public spaces close to the river.

In addition to that, three groups who participated in our previous workshop, presented their urban intervention proposals on the river in front of the community members, who in turn shared their feedback.

Group 1: The Loop by Angelica Kalach, Marilyn Bejjani & Michele Kahy

The loop is a proposal that links the two hubs of Borj Hammoud and Badawi by taking advantage of the existing infrastructure. The loop is a pedestrian and cycling passage that connects Armenia Street and Badawi Street through two pedestrian bridges crossing the river, therefore increasing economy in both hubs. The proposal also focuses on BH Street – the street adjacent to the river wall – and suggests removing the parking spots from both sides of the road and extending the sidewalk for pedestrians, while providing a special multi-level parking nearby, in addition to extending the building facade colors into the ground to slow down traffic. As for the Yerevan bridge, the proposal suggests attaching cycling lanes and sidewalks to the existing bridge to enhance the relationship with the river.

Group 2: Upgrading the Existing by Chloe Aoun, Doisy Florette, Chloe Hojeily & Rita Saade

Focusing on BH street, the proposal suggests turning the areas in between the traffic islands (next to the Armenian Genocide Memorial) into a pedestrian area transforming it into a communal public space using low cost methods, and turning the ramp that goes up towards Yerevan Bridge into a seating stairs that could be used for public events and performances. The proposal integrates vegetation and urban furniture, upgrading the existing street into a public hub for BH community.

Group 3: Sustainable Urban Environment by Ghyda Helou, Zeinab Nasser & Sara Abbas

After interviewing the local community and observing the situation around the river, the group identified the following challenges surrounding the river: Car parking taking over the road, usage of empty lots as dumping grounds, difficulty to walk on sidewalks due to violations, and vendors’ inability to sell their merchandise due to lack of space. Based on that, the proposal suggests removing the sidewalk violations from BH street, removing parking lots to extend the sidewalks and create a green buffer zone, using empty lots for bike rentals, creating an elevated pedestrian lane right by the river wall, and utilizing the space under it for vending kiosks and urban furniture.

Following the presentation, the audience divided into two groups and discussed further the challenges and potential interventions in different areas focusing on mobility and public spaces.

Check out other posts about Beirut RiverLESS:

For more news, follow us on Instagram: @BeirutRiverLESS @theOtherDada

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Group 1: The Loop

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Group 2: Upgrading the Existing

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Group 3: Sustainable Urban Environment

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About tOD

Active since 2010, the architecture lab theOtherDada defends an alternative position towards the current practice of sustainability through exploration of the context and medium, invoking new relationships between climate, landscape, and inhabitants. Informed by our research into biomimicry, we aim to connect to the natural ecosystems of sites to understand and consequently devise new potential living habitats. theOtherDada works within a collaborative process between architects, scientists, botanists, artists, economists and craftsmen.

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