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History and Theory of Architecture Research Seminar: Rethinking public space in Beirut: Competing urban territorialities and sphere-building since the Ta’if Agreement

Konstantin Kastrissianakis (Department of Architecture)
When Feb 19, 2013
from 05:30 PM to 07:00 PM
Where Library, Department of Architecture
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Since the signing of the Ta’if Agreement that ended the civil war (1975-1990), Beirut has been characterised by the continuation of wartime territorialisation, leading to what has been described as the Lebanese capital’s fragmentation. Post-war reconstruction efforts have consolidated war-induced urban demarcations, with a socio-spatial structure of multiple centralities and networked territorialities supplanting the centre-periphery hierarchy of the city. The lack of shared spaces between confessional groups often leads observers to conclude that Beirut has no public space or very little of it. This paper questions this assessment and suggests a relational approach to public space building upon Isaac Joseph’s work on public space as the “world-at-hand” and Michel Seurat’s take on Ibn Khaldun’s asabiyya(group solidarity), combined with Peter Sloterdijk’s notion of “immunological spheres”. This approach questions the idea that urban territory and public space are mutually exclusive and considers them as being mutually constitutive. This paper will investigate modes of city-making and, in Sloterdijk’s words, “sphere-building” that Sunnis and Shi’as have been articulating under the aegis, respectively, of the Hariri dynasty and Hezbollah, the dominant actors of post-Ta’if Beirut and the leaders of currently opposing camps.

Konstantin Kastrissianakis has recently completed his PhD at the Department of Architecture in Cambridge as part of the Conflict in Cities and the Contested State research project. He holds an undergraduate degree in Social Anthropology and Economics from SOAS, London, an MA in Political Science from the Institut Politique de Paris, as well as an MA in Housing and Urbanism from the Architectural Association, London. He has worked for international organisations in Europe, the Middle-East and Africa, and worked for KCAP Architects & Planners on strategic planning for the city of Perm in Russia.