Al mashriq - The Levant
Enacting Public Space
History and Social Practices of Beirut’s Horch al-Sanawbar*

Fadi S. Shayya**


After its landscape-rich (re)design in 1995 and in the name of protecting it from ‘uncivilized behavior’, the Municipality of Beirut controlled and restricted access to about two-thirds of Horch al-Sanawbar, based on certain frequenters’ social practices, employing strategies of fencing and regulating. Today, only about one-third of Horch is open to the public. However, Horch frequenters continue to manifest their practices and desires despite of fences and regulations, and disregarding landscape ‘museumification’.

This paper investigates the history of Horch al-Sanawbar and documents current social practices in its different parts; then, it attempts to correlate history and social practices of Horch to better understand it as a public space, based on literature from Sandercock and Cupers and Miessen. The main argument is that previous and current usages of Horch reveal the ability of people, through history, to negotiate their practices in controlled public spaces and under different types of control. Enacting public space becomes, then, a product of city residents’ desires throughout time.

January, 2007

[The paper] [The photographs] [The map of activities]

* This Paper appeared in the 5th FEASC Proceedings 2006 published in Beirut by the American University of Beirut (AUB), and it was awarded by the 5th FEASC Best Paper in Architecture & Design (

** Architect and Graduate Student of Urban Design at the American University of Beirut. Email: <blackche(at)>

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Last modified: Sat May 19 18:59:46 2007 Original: 20070518/bl