Lebanon has seen remarkable boom in real estate construction over the past two years. Construction sites dominate Beirut and the sound of drilling emanates from all parts of the city.
Real estate investment is derived from a large part of the Lebanese economy which has achieved a growth rate of 7 percent in 2009 and looks to continue growing this year.
While many have been enjoying the rich dividends from these real estate investments, the unplanned and unrestricted developments are causing many people to lament the state of the built environment in Beirut.
Urban planning has always been a constant uphill battle in Lebanon. Lebanese architect Assem Salam, who has previously headed the Higher Council for Urban Planning, has been angered at the current urban development of Beirut and the country as a whole.
“The urban sprawl that you see in this country is a mismanagement of the country’s resources. It is completely uncontrolled.” Many in Beirut are lamenting the fact their once beautiful city
with a built environment dominated by Lebanese modernism, Ottoman architecture and their own vernacular architecture is being replaced with large scale unplanned tower blocs.
Often these new tower blocs are being built by knocking down buildings from the 18th and 19th Century. The loss of Lebanon’s architectural heritage is occurring at a rapid pace.
“The preservation of our [architectural] heritage is essential but the problem is there are no measures to protect them form destruction,” said Salam.
There have been those that have tried to stop this destruction of Lebanon’s built environment. Salam was one of the founders of APSAD, in the 1960s, the first organization to attempt to protect Lebanon’s built heritage.
The organization continues to work on preserving Lebanese architecture but Salam has largely given up: “We have lost the battle to preserve Lebanese architecture.”
However, although APSAD have not attracted a younger generation to their activities, this generation has kept on the battle. Facebook has several groups calling for the preservation of certain buildings and for the protection of Lebanon’s built environment as a whole.