On March 18 and 19, 2022 the Graduate Programs in Urban Planning, Policy and Design (MUPP-MUD) at the American University of Beirut held the City Debates Conference titled "In-Crises Planning/Planning In Crisis" at Bathish Auditorium, AUB. City Debates 2022 explored how planning can be (re)conceived and practiced in contexts of dysfunctional states and compounded crises, featuring the work of the Beirut Urban Lab. 

City Debates was inaugurated in the evening of March 18 by a presentation of Ms. Ariella Masboungi's rich professional experience in urban planning and design. The keynote speaker, who is the holder of the French Grand Prix de l’Urbanisme in 2016, is an architect and urban planner who directed the "projet urbain" national program for the ministry in charge of Urbanism in France and worked across complex settings in Europe and beyond. This panel was moderated by Robert Saliba, Associate Professor of architecture, urban design and planning at the American University of Beirut who also led the discussions.

Watch the video recording of the Keynote Panel here.

On March 19, City Debates 2022 unfolded with three panels. Panel 1 “A Framework for Urban Recovery” was moderated and discussed by Joseph Bahout, director of the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut (IFI). This panel featured presentations by the Beirut Urban Lab’s four co-directors Mona Fawaz, Howayda Al-Harithy, Mona Harb and Ahmad Gharbieh. Fawaz examined how planning can be (re)conceived and practiced in contexts of dysfunctional states and compounded crises, while Al-Harithy explored how professionals can contribute to elaborating integrated recovery approaches and methods in such an environment. Harb's presentation focused on the ways institutional configurations assemble differently according to political-economy geometries variably impacting urban governance. Lastly, in his presentation, Gharbieh gave a brief glimpse of the lab's knowledge platforms as impactful mapping and visualization tools for planning.

Watch the video recording of Panel 1 here.

Panel 2 “Producing Knowledge Platforms” was an overview of the knowledge platforms BUL has been producing in response to the ongoing urban crises experienced by the city in the past three decades, such as wars, conflicts, disasters, the financialization of land, urban heritage, public and open space, the social value of land, and the dysfunctional urban governance led by a network of oligarchs with sectarian and corporate interests that have been hollowing out public institutions. In this group presentation, BUL researchers Hayfaa Abou Ibrahim, Luna Dayekh, Antoine Kallab, Soha Mneimneh, Leyla El-Sayed Hussein, Isabela Serhan, and Abir Zaatari introduced the Beirut Built Environment Database (BBED), the base platform which established the Lab, and the more recent platforms "City of Tenants," "Living Precariously" and the Beirut Urban Observatory (BUO), which produces a number of urban indicators and initiatives to monitor the process of post-blast recovery. This session was moderated by Melanie Hauenstein, UNDP Representative in Lebanon, and discussed by David Aouad, Assistant Professor of practice at the Lebanese American University (LAU).

Watch the video recording of Panel 2 here.

The last panel “Planning and Design Practice through 'Micro-Urbanism'” focused on how BUL and other stakeholders have been practicing planning in the context of the port blast recovery through small-scale projects initiatives, experimenting with a micro-urbanism approach. It elaborated on the pilot project of al-Masar al-Akhdar which is a proposed green path on the trajectory of the frozen project of the Fouad Boutros highway and the combined approach of citizen-science and city development strategy that helped in implementing an open space network in Karantina. This panel features the work of several BUL researchers and affiliates and was presented by Mariam Bazzi, Mahmoud Bou Kanaan, Dana Mazraani and Batoul Yassine. The moderator for this panel was Professor  of architecture and urban planning at AUB Serge Yazigi, while its discussant was Associate Professor of architecture, urban design, and planning at Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU), Christine Mady. Finally, City Debates 2022 was concluded with a commentary by Mona Fawaz and Jad Tabet, former president of the Order of Engineers and Architects in Beirut.

Watch the video recording of Panel 3 here.