Project
Planning a Sectarian Topography | SMArchS Thesis

Scholarly discourse around the work of French architect and urban planner Michel Ecochard in the early days of the Lebanese nation state frames his master plans for the capital Beirut as modernist tools for an ailing urban agglomeration, without considering the possible ramifications these plans could have had on the social and sectarian structure of the city. Throughout the scope of this thesis, I will present a re-reading of Ecochard’s work, detailing how he introduces an urbanity of social integration in a sectarian city rife with sporadic acts of urban violence.

I will also argue that Ecochard’s planned interventions are based on a careful reading of Beirut’s socio-political and economic divisions following Lebanon’s independence in the 1940’s, and throughout the nation-building era in the 1960’s. By studying and analyzing Ecochard’s personal archives, notes and drawings; I will maintain that Ecochard’s plans for the city reflect his vision for the peaceful integration of communities by promoting access, functionality and the articulation of communal public spaces, rather than viewing the plans solely as the agents of urban modernization.

Reflecting upon the broader discourse of Ecochard’s planning initiatives across Lebanon, at the time, I seek to position the architect/planner within the shifting political contexts of post-independence Lebanon. I will also address the nuances experienced by Ecochard as he attempts to intervene on Beirut within two spatial and temporal moments. The first concerned with planning a colonially inherited city. And the second, occurring at a time when Beirut becomes an economically driven safe haven, coinciding with the presence of a nationalist political agency attempting to restructure the capital with the intention of strengthening social and urban integration. The similarities and discrepancies surrounding the shifting architectural and urban dynamics between the 1941 and 1963 Plans will be key to this study.