Spatial Erasure: Reconstruction Projects in Beirut
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Often associated with processes of healing, postwar re-construction projects may be less related to the pre-destruction phase than to the actual act of destruction. This, at least, is what the Lebanese case suggests. In this essay, we argue that the spatial erasure initiated by war destruction is consolidated during postwar reconstruction. We developed this argument by analyzing two of the main postwar reconstruction projects that have marked Beirut’s urbanization since the end of its civil war in 1990. The first project, the reconstruction of Beirut’s downtown, was undertaken starting 1994 by a private real-estate company, Solidere , extends over an area of 191 hectares that mainly includes Beirut’s historical core. Solidere was founded to this end by the late Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and is widely considered as the emblem of his ten-year era in Lebanese postwar history –an era commonly associated with the advent of neo-liberalism to the country. The second reconstruction project was initiated by Jihad al-Bina’ (a Hezbollah affiliated NGO specializing in development projects and post-war reconstruction building works) in the neighborhood of Haret Hreik in Southern Beirut in the aftermath of the 2006 Israeli summer war on Lebanon. Planned, organized, and supervised by a special private agency, Wa‛d, established to this end by Jihad al-Bina’, the project’s main aim is to re-settle on site the 20,000 displaced dwellers of the neighborhoods in an estimated 200 apartment buildings, extending over 40 hectares.  The essay begins by documenting and analyzing the impacts of each of these two reconstruction projects and concludes with a wider analysis of processes of spatial erasure incurred in postwar reconstruction.
This article appeared in ArteEast Quarterly (Spring 2010): http://www.arteeast.org/2012/02/05/spatial-erasure-reconstruction-projects-in-beirut/. Posted with permission.