Lebanese American University


Architecture, Politics and Society

SArD, the Institute of Urban Planning and the Institute of Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation gather experts in the field to discuss the overlaps of architecture, society and politics.

Update: The Emergency Crates Shelter-prototype 1 designed and built by our students Shady Waked, Abdel Kader Ghazzawi and Sandra El Hajj has been published online on Designboom. (May 2, 2014)

American scholar Michael E. Porter said that national prosperity is created not inherited, arguing that a nation’s competitiveness depends on the capacity of its industry to innovate.

It was in this spirit that LAU’s School of Architecture and Design held an architecture symposium on February 27 entitled: “Architecture, Politics and Society.” The event centered on the underlying belief that architecture cannot be understood without factoring in human behavior and attitudes.

The daylong event featured LAU architecture students’ projects, and presentations from professionals of various countries and backgrounds, offering an area for inter-disciplinary exchange—a key priority for LAU.

The event was organized with the collaboration of LAU’s Institute of Urban Planning and Institute of Democracy and Conflict Transformation.

“The topic is a timely one. And despite, in this part of the world, our immersion in the political, the majority of people remain oblivious to the significant role that architectural, and in the larger dimension urban projects, play on our existing political relationships,” said Dr. Elie Haddad, the dean of the School of Architecture and Design.

According to Associate Professor Dr. Jose Madrigal, chairperson of the Department of Architecture, architecture’s role must keep up with the times. “The relation between the architect and citizenship is sometimes neglected. Humanity is facing serious habitation crises which need to be addressed,” he said.

This was echoed in the presentation of Dr. Avelino Oliveria from the Fernando Pessoa University in Portugal, who focused on urban sustainability and discussed the role of the architect as a social actor. “There are many similarities between Portugal in Lebanon—especially the transportation problem,” he pointed out. “Architects, urban planners and politicians need to work together to resolve these problems, which impact our lives daily.”

Also espousing on the issues of daily life was Dr. Richard Douzjian, a faculty member at the SArD. “In predominantly market-driven societies, humans keep producing more than their actual needs, generating unused architectonic structures,” he said. In this vein, he and some of his students in Design Studio Five focused on a project of reusing old crates. “The increase of Syrian refugees flowing into Lebanon made us think of creating an emergency shelter to help those in dire need,” said SArD student Abed el Kader Ghazzawi.  With the help of fellow students Sandra Hajj and Shady Waked the students came up with easy-to-assemble, and cost efficient crates made of plastic and Styrofoam to make temporary shelters. “Architecturally speaking, the project revolves around the ideas of interactive architecture, multi-functional furniture and a simple color coding system for differentiation,” Waked adds.

“The urban growth of Beirut and Lebanon has been shaped more by the forces of local politics and rapid economics as opposed to sustainable planning strategies,” declared Dr. Rachid Chamoun, head of the Institute of Urban Planning. Pointing to the need for an organic cultural and urban infrastructure, he said: “The citizens of Beirut are confused, they are seeking the preservation of a particular pre-war public image, space and character - in particular they are attempting to physically live an urban memory.”

The Seminar Organization Committee was made up of student volunteers: Lily Hamouche, Ghinwa Azzi, Mirella Khalil, Nathalie Dabaghi and Dana Atallah.


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