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The statue on Martyrs’ Square in downtown, which commemorates those who fought for Lebanon’s independence. The square is of huge importance for Lebanon’s/Beirut’s political life with enormous symbolic value because all important demonstrations are staged here. Photo: Sara Fregonese

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SHARING SPACE

The reconstruction of the whole city centre by the private company Solidere is meant to create a neutral space for everyone. The symbolism to demonstrate this neutrality relies heavily on ancient Phoenician signs and artefacts because this people is perceived, or at least promoted, as free of sectarian baggage. However, the project is criticised for its commercial character which allegedly creates new divisions between those who can afford the price for a coffee at Starbucks and those who cannot.

Also Beirut Mall on a boundary between a Shi’a and Christian Maronite neighbourhood is an interesting case of shared space. Interestingly, this purely commercial project comes with a particular architectural design. In order to demonstrate neutrality, it follows a linear modernist design, avoids politically symbolic colours anywhere in the building or locates certain goods such as alcohol according to religious sensitivities in the supermarket. Our general findings indicate that it requires a lot of detailed, local knowledge to achieve such successful interventions.



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