Doxiadis and His Legacy: Retrospective of the Lebanon Case - From Sketch to Stretch
Keywords:Doxiadis’ legacy, Planning vs Politics, Post WWII urban policies, Ekistics methodology
In 1957-8 Doxiadis Associates undertook the National Housing Project of Lebanon, a fast track national development plan created in response to the imperative to house large parts of the population living in inadequate conditions. This national reconstruction plan is indicative of a heroic period of planning post-WWII. The legacy of CIAM - the Congrès internationaux d'architecture moderne (1928-1959) – had been the spawning of modern movements, including Doxiadis’ newly born theory of Ekistics, that envisioned national scale development while furthering US hegemony in the cold war era. The National Housing Project of Lebanon arose in this context, and Doxiadis’ approach would distinguish him from his contemporaries. Consisting of a “sketching” phase involving data collection using diaries featuring photographic depictions and 500 sketches from 2.500 human settlements in Lebanon, and a “stretching” phase resulting in proposals for immediate implementation, specifically, housing schemes at the periphery of Beirut, Doxiadis’ approach was distinctive for mixing different functions to enhance social encounter, for grounding future typologies in existing localities, and for prioritizing community-sensitive planning by insisting on the importance of human scale. Unfortunately, political changes after the plan’s submission in May 1958 lead to its eventual abandonment, and problems in the wider area still prevail. The persistence in the region of violent conflicts, population flows, and the destruction of cities that leave the poorest living in slums and camps suggests that the planning strategies proposed by Doxiadis’ and his contemporaries’ did not fail, but instead, reveal the complex nature of the planning process itself, including its susceptibility to political forces. As such, the National Housing Project of Lebanon and other unrealized initiatives offer a rich resource for understanding the problems of human settlements which remain with us today.
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