After the Lebanese Civil War, a public-private consortium called Solidere was formed to rebuild downtown Beirut. Squatters are expelled, mines cleared, buildings deemed significant are restored. Symbolic public spaces are created by celebrity architects. Instead of an economically renewed, shared social ground for the country's multiple populations, however, the reconstruction leads to its privatization and Disneyfication. Downtown does not represent nor include the country's vast middle and poorer classes.
Only in 2005, with the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri (the founder of Solidere), and the massive demonstrations that followed, does Downtown Beirut reacquires its symbolic status. This is further confirmed by the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese war – in which hundreds of thousands of refugees occupy Downtown- and the anti-government occupation of the center's public spaces that followed.
With the evident failure of burying difference, conflict, surprise and complexity behind a clean and simplified narrative, we propose to re-create Downtown Beirut as a temporal Cadavre Exquis: a series of possible 'epochs' whose final combination constitutes a fictionally re-created complexity.
Epoch 1. Tent City
Claiming the tent as the true symbol of 21st century modernity, Beirut revives its mythical past as center for intellectual thought and free debate as an “intellectual refugee camp” deployed downtown.
2. Urban War Games Coliseum
Subverting its status as 'city of continuous conflict', created by world powers' proxy wars, Beirut sets up a terrain on abandoned landfill for the enactment of simulated urban warfare. Giving up internal conflicts, the country prospers from the games.
As sectarian differences ease, travel between the center and outlying neighborhoods increases. A new metro is created to ease traffic, create an Lebanese public transportation system, and to serve as a place of refuge when regional tensions inevitably rise.
As the Metro expands, important archaeological remains are unearthed. By default, the metro/bunkers become an immense archaeological museum.
5. Iconic Programs
A series of structures celebrating Lebanese identity are proposed. Their iconographic quality is provided by the buildings' programs, including Vertical Souks, a Plastic Surgery Center, a Narguileh-smoking Headquarters, a Lebanese food Cuisinopolis, a national Public School and the Fairuzeum, dedicated to Lebanon's most popular singer.
6. Cedar Evolution
To properly represent its varied population, the Lebanese government retires from the wargames business and turns to the Cedar as the nation's most neutral symbol. The Cedar Island also provides the opportunity to ski and swim simultaneously.