At the Edge of the City: Reinhabiting Public Space toward the Recovery of Beirut’s Horsh Al-Sanawb

Edited by Fadi Shayya, urban planner and architect

Since the early 1990s, Beirut’s Park, Horsh Al-Sanawbar, was sealed off from the lives of many Beiruti residents and visitors, with numerous justifications for their exclusion. At the Edge of the City is a contemporary critique of urban governance and spatial production in Beirut. The undertaking is advocating in scope, multidisciplinary in approach, and journalistic in style. The book is an edited volume envisioned to be an eye-catching reference, where essays analyze and document historical and contemporary issues related to the woods, the park, and public space in Beirut while vivid visuals document and illustrate dimensions that stimulate the senses and intellect. The book includes essays, policy memos, personal experiences, art contributions, infographics, photographs, and newspaper articles.

The project started with an awareness of the imperative nature of communicating practice-based research to a wide audience and of informing political change avenues with contemporary empirical findings and conceptual frameworks. In a context of blurred boundaries between public and private space, and structural confusion of meanings between public and private spheres, post-war Beirut’s public space has been both: a political space for negotiating the prevalence of the state as a system of authority and governance, and a cultural space for manifesting liberal (and neoliberal) private interests (rooted in Lebanon’s trade history and geography). A distinctive feature of the politics and culture of public space in Beirut is their spread across different income groups, classes, political and sectarian affiliations, as well as social structures and powers.

The book is supported by the Heinrich Böll Foundation and published by DISCURSIVE FORMATIONS, Beirut, 2010.