Robert Saliba: Beirut City Center Recovery: The Foch-Allenby and Etoile Conservation Area
The Foch-Allenby and Etoile area of Beirut epitomizes the civic and business identity of the city, both as a national capital and as a port. Evolving from the traditional heart of intramural Beirut in the mid-nineteenth century to be the showcase of the French Mandate in the Levant, it became the symbol of the city's reconstruction following the 1975-1990 Lebanese War. Archival, survey, planning and design materials generated during the recovery of the city center and its conservation area reveal how urban design policies formulated in the 1920s and 1930s (the transition period between tradition and early modernity) were finally brought to their full potential. We see how international experience in urban and architectural conservation was adapted to local materials and know-how. The need to modernize infrastructure and upgrade public spaces was reconciled with the equally present need to preserve the cultural identity of place through the reuse of conserved structures, made possible due to the adoption of specific stone masonry repair techniques. Proceeding according to a pre-approved but flexible master plan, the recovery of the Beirut city center is a major postwar reconstruction and urban regeneration project.
By: Robert Saliba