Read all the articles published about the Beirut Blast featuring the Lab's work, as well as op-eds and policy papers signed by members of the Lab.

  • The Public Source - Dana Mazraani, Luna Dayekh, and Mona Harb - 02.12.2020
    Why Socio-Spatial Practices Matter to Urban Recovery

    "Socio-spatial practices are deeply rooted in the urban history of Beirut, experienced through streets, markets, and multiple public and private open spaces that are more or less hidden, including alleyways, historical staircases, building entrances, vacant lots, and other appropriated sites. Socio-spatial practices matter as sites of sociability and social interaction, where children play safely, the elderly socialize, women meet and converse, migrants, refugees and other vulnerable groups hang out and forge communities."

    This article was also published in Arabic.

  • Icon Magazine - Rima Alsammarae - 26.11.2020
    Rebuilding Beirut
    "In light of the blast, the lab has launched a series of interconnected projects, aiming to offer a holistic and multi-layered process to urban recovery - one that goes beyond physical repair. 'We were interested primarily in asking how the blast amplified or contributed to feeding already existing trends in the development of the city' says Ahmad Gharbieh, an assistant professor of Graphic Design at AUB." 
  • The Public Source - Soha Mneimneh and Mona Fawaz - 06.11.2020
    Beirut’s Blasted Neighborhoods: Between Recovery Efforts and Real Estate Interests

    "Rather than an interruption or a new turn in the occupation of the neighborhoods forming these districts, we argue that the blast should be seen as a disruption that will intensify the effects of the already-in-place mechanisms, pushing away a larger number of those who have worked or lived in the neighborhoods surrounding the port. Therefore, if the architects of Beirut’s recovery are serious about bringing people back, then they must address the structural and institutional forces that triggered trends of displacement well before the blast."

    This article was also published in Arabic.

  • Arab Center Washington DC - Mona Fawaz and Mona Harb - 13.10.2020
    Is Lebanon Becoming Another “Republic of the NGOs”?
    "The public response and the record of public interventions provide dismal expectations for a state-led recovery. In this context, and to counter the army-INGO tandem that seems to impose itself as the main option, activists and professional unions have to carry the huge burden of demonstrating their capability to monitor works, generate accountability, and support residents in taking charge of their districts—enormous responsibilities to undertake in these dire times of compounded crises, with no end in sight. Still, attempts—even small ones—to salvage any pieces of the state so it is functional, should not be spared. Such efforts may sow the seeds for the desired state building that would preferably be developed inclusively from the bottom up by the Lebanese people as the country seeks to extricate itself from its current troubles."
  • The Public Source - Howayda Al-Harithy and Batoul Yassine - 06.10.2020
    Post-Disaster Karantina: Towards a People-Centered Heritage-Led Recovery

    "In the aftermath of violent acts of rupture, cities endure erasures of place and memory and disruptions to socio-economic and cultural practices. Mending emotional, spiritual, and socio-cultural connections becomes critical for any process of recovery — with cultural heritage, that includes sites of social significance and shared memories — serving as a catalyst for a successful recovery process. In this sense, cultural recovery operates beyond the limited definition of heritage tied to the physical and historical and goes beyond the urgent recovery process that is people-centered, heritage-led, and place-specific to address post-disaster basic needs. Crucially, it attends to socio-spatial practices that are part of the intangible heritage, and rebuilds, over the long-term, undermined cultural practices, social ties, and economic networks. Such industrial neighborhoods and informal settlements as Karantina, characterized by a deep social, cultural, and economic history, are therefore as deserving as any other neighborhood of a recovery process that is people-centered, heritage-led, and place-specific."

    This article was also published in Arabic.

  • National Geographic - Abby Sewell - 04.09.2020
    Beirut has rebuilt before. Here’s how the city will do it again.

    “The heart of the city was always vibrant and mixed,” says Howayda al-Harithy, a professor of architecture and urban design at the American University of Beirut and research director at the Beirut Urban Lab. But now, she says, “It’s a ghost town because it’s a space for the elite. It’s unaffordable by anyone else, and that is proven by the fact that it stays [largely] empty.”

    "Many residents fear a more haphazard razing of the area’s history, driven by the real estate speculation that had begun to reshape Beirut’s historic neighborhoods before the explosion. A 2018 survey by Beirut Urban Lab researchers found at least 350 demolition permits had been filed in the past 15 years in areas that have now been impacted by the blast, wrote the lab’s Mona Fawaz. While demolitions and construction had slowed amid an economic downturn in recent years with the collapse of the country’s financial system, people desperate to get their money out of banks began investing in real estate."

  • The Daily Star - Nick Newsom - 27.08.2020
    Beirut residents battle for dignified return to their homes
    "AUB’s Beirut Urban Lab has meanwhile made publicly available its built environment database of the city, which provides a 'very detailed, geo-referenced map of Beirut, including everything from the building footprint, to public spaces, municipal sector divisions and property law zones,' according to AUB assistant professor Ahmad Gharbieh.
    The database also maps out residential housing permits during the postwar period and has provided valuable insights into questions around housing, evictions and gentrification.
    'There has already been an eviction process taking place in the affected areas, and we have to keep that in mind while making a recovery plan,' Gharbieh said. 'The aim is to protect some of these affected people and tenants from exploitative plans that might come in place'."
  • Le Commerce du Levant - Nada Maucourant Atallah and Salah Hijazi - 27.08.2020
    La communauté tech se mobilise pour Beyrouth
    "Pour appuyer ces efforts, le “Beirut Urban Lab”, un centre de recherche de l’Université Américaine de Beyrouth (AUB), a ouvert au téléchargement les données présentes sur sa carte de Beyrouth. Cette carte, unique en son genre, réunit différentes couches d’informations essentielles sur les acteurs (constructeurs, développeurs, propriétaires), des caractéristiques des appartements (nombre d’étages, occupation, parking…) et environnementales (accès à l’eau, présence de panneaux solaires).
    'Le but est d’avoir une seule et même carte, dont les données sont fiables, à partir de laquelle toutes les ONGs peuvent travailler', explique Ahmad Gharbieh, professeur assistant à l’AUB et membre fondateur du Beirut Urban Lab. Ces données ne sont pas seulement nécessaires pour la coordination de l’effort immédiat. 'Elles seront essentielles pour la conception d’un plan de reconstruction globale', ajoute-t-il."
  • Lebanese Center for Policy Studies (LCPS) - 25.08.2020
    Rebuilding Beirut: How to Curtail Neoliberal Urbanization?
    In this Alternative Frequencies podcast episode, Mona Fawaz discusses with Nadim El Kak the scale of damages in residential areas impacted by the Beirut explosion, the dangers of neoliberal urban policies, their impact on urban heritage and housing rights, and practical ways to curtail gentrification and protect residents.
  • Lebanese Center for Policy Studies (LCPS) - Howayda Al-Harithy - 21.08.2020
    A Participatory Recovery of Post-Blast Beirut
    In this interview with LCPS, Howayda Al-Harithy explains the Lab's vision for urban recovery after the blast, revisits past reconstruction and recovery efforts in Lebanon, and comments on debates about heritage in light of the current urban challenges. 
  • Jadaliyya - Mona Harb - 20.08.2020
    Quick Thoughts: Mona Harb on the Aftermath of the Beirut Explosion
    Mouin Rabbani, editor of 'Quick Thoughts' and Jadaliyya Co-Editor interviewed Mona Harb, Jadaliyya Co-Editor and Professor of Urban Studies and Politics at the American University of Beirut, to get a better understanding of the explosion’s physical and political consequences.
  • Al-Arabyia - Abby Sewell - 17.08.2020
    Beirut blast: Residents told to front repair costs by Lebanon’s landlords
    "Dounia Salamé, a researcher at the Beirut Urban Lab, which tracks land use issues in the city, noted that displaced tenants will face a tight market as they search for new housing, even though Beirut has a high housing vacancy rate. Because building owners do not pay municipal taxes on empty apartments, many landlords prefer to sit on vacant apartments rather than rent at a low rate."
  • The New Arab - Mona Fawaz - 15.08.2020
    To pre-empt disaster capitalism, Beirut urgently needs a people-centered recovery

    Mona Fawaz signs this opinion piece on what constitutes a people-centered recovery. 

    This article was also published in Arabic.

  • Headline Brazil - 12.08.2020
    "We have gotten to a point of no return"

    Mona Harb puts the blast into its social, political and economic perspective. 

  • The National (UAE) - Scott Preston - 11.08.2020
    The fight to stop Lebanon’s urban history becoming a victim of the Beirut blast
    “This is an area of the city that people visit when they come to Beirut. It’s not just that there are a few heritage buildings,” explains Mona Fawaz, a professor of Urban Studies and Planning at the American University of Beirut. “It’s that it has a community of creatives. It has all these bars and pubs, workshops and studios, but also all these elderly people who know the history of the city who make the old buildings really alive.”
    Mona Harb, a professor of Urban Studies and Politics at AUB, points to the economic crisis as another issue for reconstruction: “We were already scrapping by for shreds to survive a very serious economic, monetary and banking crisis – as we speak, people cannot access their money in the banks,” she said, adding that now they have to try to repair damaged homes, fix broken cars and replace lost belongings."
  • Wired Middle East - Abby Sewell - 10.08.2020
    As Lebanon’s government steps down, volunteers step up to rebuild
    "Al-Harithy, meanwhile, says she and her colleagues at AUB’s Urban Lab, a research space focused on urbanization, are now working on developing a strategy for “a proper urban recovery” that goes beyond the first phase of humanitarian relief and emergency support. This strategy will not just be about reconstruction and rebuilding “but really rebuilding the community’s social, economic, and cultural networks,” she says, adding that they are looking for the main entry points into communities so they are not “parachuting anything in from above.” This will likely involve the establishment of community spaces where the academics can brainstorm with residents about their priorities for reconstruction. “When you reconstruct you want to think physical but you also want to think of the intangible: there are spaces of memory, shared memory, spaces of significance for the society that we need to bring back,” Al-Harithy says."