Hiba Bou Akar: The Lacework of Zoning, from Her Forthcoming Book For the War Yet to Come: Planning Beirut’s Frontiers

A panoramic view of rows of boxy, six-story concrete apartment buildings. view of many boxy apartment buildings.

The AA complex in Sahra Choueifat, Beirut, 2017. photo / Hiba Bou Akar

Hiba Bou Akar is an assistant professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. Bou Akar's research examines the geographies of planning and war, and the question of urban security and violence, focusing on the role of religious-political organizations in the making of cities. Her forthcoming book, For the War Yet to Come: Planning Beirut's Frontiers (Stanford University Press, 2018), examines how Beirut's post-civil war peripheries have been transformed through multiple planning exercises into contested frontiers that are mired in new forms of conflict. Her first coedited book, Narrating Beirut from its Borderlines, incorporated ethnographic and archival research with art installations, architecture, graphic design, and photography to explore Beirut's segregated geographies. Bou Akar received her Ph.D. in city and regional planning from the University of California–Berkeley with a designated emphasis in global metropolitan studies. She holds a bachelor of architecture from the American University of Beirut and a master's in urban studies and planning from MIT. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University's Mahindra Humanities Center and is the coeditor of Jadaliyya Cities, an online journal addressing urban issues in the Middle East.

Abstract:

"The Lacework of Zoning" traces how urban planning and zoning technologies have become technologies of warfare in times of peace, transforming Sahra Choueifat, a southeastern periphery of Beirut, into a deadly frontier of contestation and violence that in 2008 witnessed one of the bloodiest armed battles since the end of the Lebanese civil war. The chapter traces the territorial battle of the Shiite Hezbollah and the Druze PSP over the area through zoning policies and real estate and housing markets. While Hezbollah wanted the area zoned residential to accommodate more of its low-income constituents, the PSP pushed to zone it industrial to stop the influx of Hezbollah's supporters to the neighborhood. As a result, this low-income periphery is now a patchwork of apartment buildings in the vicinity of industry, next to one of the most active urban agricultural areas around Beirut, with severe repercussions on the everyday life of its residents.