Everyday Practices as Urban Marvellous Realism: Five Nomadic “Vagues” in Beirut

By Carole Levesque.

Published by The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Following the several political upheavals that have inhabited contemporary Beirut, the transfiguration of the city is now being conducted by massive capital investments and real estate speculation. Yet, despite this renewed transformation, pockets of the city are left stagnant, neither at war nor in reconstruction. While waiting to see which private investor might take over these areas, some have taken a life of their own, appearing as the only remaining spaces where alternatives might still be possible. It is through these forgotten neighborhoods that opportunities for other proposals emerge, where the city as a found object can project its own and differentiated future. This essay presents the district of Bachoura as one of such found urban pieces. Located in a pivotal position between thriving neighborhoods, Bachoura is, at most, a large “terrain vague” within the city center. Because it is still largely neglected by the recent reconstruction, the neighborhood holds a chance to contribute to alternative discourses on the found character of the city and on the value of everyday practices. Building on the intricacies of found situations, improvised uses and local narratives, a series of five nomadic and transitional personal infrastructures explore how the meeting of the literary marvellous realism, the “terrain vague” and temporary architecture can provide opportunities for creative proposals to emerge. These machine-like rooms, while decidedly grounded in the social condition, grow to be invented places without definite locations and propose that despite the yoke of neo-liberalist urban development, pieces of “Bachourian-marvellous-realness” could still stroll the new landscape.

Keywords: Everyday, Terrain Vague, Public Space, Nomadic Architecture

The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp.21-31. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 722.035KB).

Dr. Carole Levesque

University of Quebec in Montreal, Montreal, Canada

Carole Lévesque holds an M.Arch from the University of British-Columbia and a PhD in the history and theory of architecture from the University of Montreal. Her work focuses on the potentials of small scale, temporary architecture in contributing to debates within the discipline and practices of architecture, and on alternative currents in the development of the contemporary city. She has taught at the schools of architecture of the University of Montreal and the American University of Beirut. She is professor at the School of Design at the University of Quebec in Montreal where she teaches graduate design studios, history, theory and criticism of design, as well as undergraduate thematic seminars. She is the author of À propos de l’inutile en architecture.