Orientation Arts in Public Sphere du Master HES-SO in Fine Arts.

MAPS Embassy - Beirut

MAPS Embassy

BEIRUT MADINATI, a hope for a city renewed

The people were silent. Until a huge pile of trash came on top of another, burying the city in disaster.

Lebanon, not having a president for three consecutive years, where the elections are constantly being postponed and put on hold due to continual internal differences and failure of agreement, it was about time for a change.

Electricity cuts, water unavailability, trash crisis, lack of public spaces, social (in)security, absence of public transportation, are but a few problems that the Lebanese have to deal with daily.

Demonstrations started in summer 2015: a catharsis of discontent directed at the political class, which has walled itself off from popular opinion and failed to provide other basic services. In September, young men openly identifying themselves as supporters of the country's Parliament speaker descended on the protesters, carrying knives and throwing punches and stones. Every time demonstrators attempted to approach the parliament building, security forces fired their weapons into the air, sprayed tear gas and water cannons, and arrested dozens.

The rise of “Beirut Madinati” (literally meaning: “Beirut my city”)

 Beirut Madinati is an opportunity for change that starts with the recognition that the traditional political leadership has proven unable to responsibly manage urban affairs, and that the people, can collectively do much better.
Beirut Madinati is a volunteer-led campaign to elect a municipal council of qualified, politically unaffiliated individuals in the upcoming contest of May 2016, and, once in office, to support them in implementing a people-centered program that prioritizes livability in Beirut. 

In all that it does and aspires to do, Beirut Madinati, strives to reflect its core values: the primacy of the public good, social justice, transparency, and stewardship of the city for future generations. 

The Beirut Madinati Municipal Program is a plan to improve living conditions in Beirut.  It was developed by experts with decades of experience in research, consultancy, and advocacy work in urban affairs, and who have found that for many years their advocacy for people-centered urban development has fallen on deaf ears in Lebanon’s centers of power.  Realizing the futility of continuing to try to convince the Beirut Municipal Council to adopt the livability of the city as a core concern, this group has launched a campaign to elect qualified individuals whose primary objective is to make Beirut more livable: more affordable, more “walkable”, more green and more accessible.

Beirut Madinati envisions the city’s municipality as the public agency that represents and responds to the needs of all city dwellers and derives its legitimacy by representing them rather than representing particular political parties. The municipality aims to be transparent in its planning and budgeting processes, and to provide numerous channels for those who live or work in Beirut to shape the municipality’s priorities and workings, and to request specific actions..

Below are 10 key plans of the Beirut Madinati campaign (drawn from a more detailed planning document that is available on the website.)


Improving urban mobility through an integrated strategy that makes soft options (i.e. walking, biking) more viable, enhances and organizes shared transportation systems (e.g. large buses, mini-vans, services, taxis) within the administrative city boundaries and beyond, and reduces air pollution

Today, about 70% of trips in Beirut rely on the use of private cars. At peak hours, most of these cars move at the speed of a pedestrian walking at a normal pace.

Within 6 years, only 45% of trips will be conducted by private cars, and at least 15% will be by walking or biking. The remaining 40% will be through shared transportation.


Improving greenery and public space by incorporating the city’s shared spaces into a network of green passages and spaces that simultaneously act as pedestrian paths and as an array of meeting and play areas of multiple sizes and functions. Upgrading the entire waterfront by improving its accessibility and views, and by strengthening its role as an attractive socially and economically active zone that can support livelihoods, as well as increasing the number of publically accessible green areas in the city: Every neighborhood will have at least one public garden that serves the local community.

Today Beirut offers less than 1m2/person of green open space while the World Health Organization recommends at least 9 m2/person.

Within 6 years  this number should be increased to at least 5m2/capita.


Make housing more affordable for future homeowners and tenants. Beirut Madinati will introduce incentives for developers to upgrade or replace deteriorating housing and propose new planning tools to revise the incentive and taxation structures that currently hinder production of affordable housing. 

(Today the average price of an apartment is more than $570,000, or 1270 times the minimum monthly wage. At this rate, more than half of the children in Beirut today will not be able to secure a home in the city.)


Implementing an integrated solid waste management strategy by providing incentives for businesses and households to reduce waste, sort at the source, and by implementing a system of secondary sorting, reuse and recycling. In addition, Beirut Madinati will establish an Office of Solid Waste Management inside the Municipality of Beirut to ensure that we never again face a garbage crisis, and to work towards making Beirut a model zero-waste city. The Office will work with regional and national agencies and authorities to establish and maintain sanitary landfills and dispose of toxic waste and to articulate and implement the long-term waste reduction strategy. Finally, and in the event that the current waste crisis is not solved by the time the Campaign takes office in May, the movement will implement an emergency crisis measure to set in place a dismountable state of the art waste treatment facility within the municipal boundaries of the city.

Today, Beirut produces 600 tons/day of solid waste. 90% of this waste is landfilled, despite the fact that almost all of it recyclable.

Within 6 years Beirut should recycle at least 40% of its solid waste, and implement management methods that are in compliance with best practices worldwide.


Protecting and developing Beirut’s built and natural heritage, including its waterfront, as a cultural and economic resource that enhances character, enriching cultural life, playing a role in economic development, fostering cultural tourism and enhancing competitiveness in business recruitment and retention.

Today the Beirut coastline is largely occupied by private complexes, restaurants, and other facilities that block access and view to the sea.

Within 6 years, the movement plans to establish an interlinked network of public gardens, open spaces, a publicly accessible waterfront and natural and architectural heritage.


Building community spaces and enhancing services, in partnership with stakeholders and active NGOs: equipping the city with community centers, libraries, social support services, educational facilities, and other elements vital to the social life of the city.

Today Beirut has only three public libraries, built in partnership between the Municipality and an NGO, Al-Sabeel. No new library has been built in the past 6 years. The city has no other public community centers.

Within 6 years, Beirut Madinati aims to double the number of public libraries and enhance the larger infrastructure of social services.


Integrating social justice, poverty alleviation, and socio-economic development as crosscutting goals to be addressed in all projects initiated by the municipality. The municipality will unfold initiatives and projects that revive local markets, stimulate entrepreneurship, and address unemployment and urban poverty. It will do so by actively connecting, partnering and bridging with both the private and the non-profit sectors.

Today, unemployment stands at double its 2011 level, and one in four job seekers, half of whom are youth, cannot find a job. Many of the poverty pockets are located within Beirut and the gap between rich and poor is widening. Businesses have difficulties growing and surviving while many households suffer from the rising cost of living.

Within 6 years the municipality should have installed local markets for small producers and buyers; It will contribute to an enabling environment for local entrepreneurship in sectors of relevance to the city’s economy and reduce entrepreneurs’ operational and infrastructural costs. The Municipality will attach a social clause to every public work contract that requires contractors to consider the social impacts of their implementation strategies.


Integrating principles of environmental sustainability and stewardship across all regulatory and operational interventions of the municipality, particularly in relation to the building development sector: introducing regulations and incentives for utilizing building design strategies that minimize energy use, and for reducing the negative environmental impacts of construction activities.

Within 6 years the movement aims to renovate municipal buildings to become exemplars of green buildings, and establish incentives and clear design guidelines for new construction projects.


Prioritizing the health and safety of all city dwellers by recognizing the municipality’s responsibility to monitor, lobby for, and intervene through incentives and projects that provide clean water, reduce air pollution by reducing traffic and electricity generators, resolve the current waste crisis among others. The movement will also introduce an integrated lighting system that improves street safety and monitor crime rates and articulate neighborhood-based.

Today, Beirut’s environment is a threat to everyday health because of poor air quality, poor levels of cleanliness, and the absence of monitoring of air, water, and physical environment.

Within 6 years Beirut Madinati aims at having clean city streets, removing the large open-air waste bins that sit in the streets,  monitoring water quality and set up a plan with the Beirut Water Authority to alleviate the water problems and their symptoms, and implementing a city-wide lighting plan that improves night safety.


Improving the organizational structure of the Municipality, train its staff, and address the main institutional challenges that have plagued the performance of councils for decades. The movement pledges to acknowledge, enhance, and sustain as the municipality’s main asset the wide network of active civil groups and NGOs that have invested in the well-being of the city. Furthermore, to work towards an efficient relationship with the governor of Beirut and work with the governor’s office to set up a human resources department, which will evaluate municipal employee performance, improve social security coverage, and address the municipal civil servants’ inclusion in the civil servants’ funds (ta’awuniyya).
Beirut Madinati will also pledge to appoint a City Planner, experienced in the organization and management of city affairs, and will charge him/her with forming a team of qualified professionals who will implement the vision. Thw staff will be trained and introduced to a performance-based system of evaluation that rewards loyalty to the city and its dwellers.

Who are the Candidates of this movement?

The Beirut Madinati candidates are city dwellers who experience and well understand Beirut’s problems and its needs. They are people who value transparency and accountability and adhere to Beirut Madinati’s Code of Ethics

Candidates will be announced by the end of this week (April 22nd 2016)

How is Beirut Madinati supported?

The movement is volunteer-based as well as donation-based; it is not backed by any political party or local or foreign organization, it is only through supporters that it can win elections in May and make Beirut a more livable city.

Pictures by Monica Basbous Moukarzel

ACT performance festival

ACT performance festival

On April 9th, some of the MAPS - Master of Arts in Public Spheres students participated to ACT performance festival at USEGO in Sierre. They presented original performances specially developed for this event. The festival is going on tour also in Zürich, Basel and Bern.

Picture by Victoria Grin

Practicing public sphere - Leytron

Practicing public sphere - Leytron

From April 4th to April 7th, The MAPS - Master of Arts in Public Spheres students from first year went with Jérôme Leuba in Leytron to film personal projects that will end in a single movie. This video will be publicly presented on June 3rd in the town where it was shot.

Workshop with Christophe Fellay

Workshop with Christophe Fellay

On March 10th and March 24th, The MAPS - Master of Arts in Public Spheres students received an historical introduction of the use of sound in visual arts given by Christophe Fellay, sound artist and teacher at ECAV. They also worked on elaborating a sound mapping of the town of Chippis. The results will be publicly presented on July 1st.

Workshop with Ursula Biemann

Workshop with Ursula Biemann

From March 21st to March 23rd, The MAPS - Master of Arts in Public Spheres students worked in groups around various ecological issues. The initial input about this topic was given by Ursula Biemann and the students developed visual material to speak about these questions.