142.3 Ethnic integration, or spatial segregation? Negotiating technical expertise in the making of the Shemlan master plan in Lebanon

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 1:00 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Lana SALMAN , Department of Architecture and Design, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon
In 2008, a Master Plan (MP) for the Shemlan region (in Lebanon) was approved as the statutory framework organizing the built environment. Within a historically conflict-ridden context between Maronite and Druze communities (1975-1990), and Shiite and Druze communities (May 2008), the MP focused on zoning for land use and building ratios.

This paper investigates the complexity of overlaps and intersections between technical expertise and political interferences, and the ongoing negotiations between the two in the MP's production process. Findings indicate that planning initiatives meant to consolidate post-war reconciliation between Druze and Maronite communities reified the emerging conflict between the Shiite and Druze ones. Planning practices became part and parcel of a continuous and evolving conflict, instead of effective tools for promoting ethnic integration. In parallel, private initiatives unrelated to the master plan, in particular, a “Peace Park” and a higher education institution in the area seem to have tackled ethnic diversity with a more subtle understanding.

The research builds on a comparison with similar case studies in other contexts such as Bilabao, Belfast and Johannesburg. Characterized by a general alignment between central state, local agencies, and planners, attempts for coherent processes of “ethnic mixing” have taken place. Unlike such contexts, Lebanon is a model of a weak, fragmented central state. Central planning agencies, local agencies, municipalities, and private political and professional actors do not necessarily agree on, let alone promote, a single vision and goal.

The paper builds on 8 months of fieldwork (May- December 2010), 35 interviews with dwellers of the region, bureaucrats at public planning agencies, planners, and members of political parties. This data is accompanied by an investigation of the 2 MP proposed alternatives and a discursive analysis of local newspapers’ reports published between 2002 and 2008, the period during which this planning exercise took place.